By Nyainda Manaseh
In an interview with the Sunday Nation in 1965, the then Principal of Alliance High School Edward Carey Francis, upon being asked the brightest student he had ever taught in Alliance, vividly summarized his response in 5 words: ‘Far and away, David Wasawo.’
For beginners, the late Professor David Simon Wasawo was the first East African to be conferred on a Degree in Science and a Post Graduate in Zoology at the prestigious Oxford University in 1951.
In fact, his name is ineffaceably in that institution’s list of honor, describing him as the brightest scholar at Oxford University between 14th and 20th Centuries. He hails from Siaya.
Even the late Professor Ouma Muga, who drafted Moi’s speech delivered at the Saving the Ozone Layer Conference in Rio, earning him a 10-minute standing ovation, describes Prof David Wasao as impossibly intelligent.
Argwings Chiedo Kodhek, Kenya’s first African lawyer to be admitted to the English bar, also hails from Siaya.
Prof. Bethwel Allan Ogot, Kenya’s celebrated history scholar and literati per excellence, is credited for reconstructing Africa’s history, which had been distorted and adulterated by colonialists.
His intellectual peers are the likes of Michael Crowder with whom they’ve re-written numerous African history books. He highlighted such blatant historical oversights as John Rebman ‘discovering’ Mt. Kenya and recalibrated it into the ‘first European to find it’.
The late Margaret Ogola, a historical novelist, also left a monumental mark in academia with her most prominent book, “The River and Source” finding its way into Ph.D. Literature classes at the most prestigious institution of higher learning on earth; Harvard University. She is from Asembo in Siaya
Last year, Google celebrated her by doodling her on its search engine, posthumously reinforcing her impeccable achievements on the global stage.
It would be a great injustice if I don’t remind you that Dr. Otiende Amollo, my favorite MP, the first lawyer in Africa and the fourth in the world to successfully argue out and win a presidential petition, comes from Siaya.
Siaya County is the country’s granary of professors with global distinctions, that if you arbitrarily throw a stone, you are likely to hit a professor’s head. The meteoric rise of this crème of intellects is attributed to two elementary reasons; the proximity of Siaya to Makere University and Chief Odera Akang’o.
When Kenya was in the grip of colonialists and promising intellects were being targeted, Luos would go to the well-established Makerere University to proceed with their academics and the relative calm in the lakeside was fundamental to their intellectual quest.
Also, Chief Odera was benevolently a dictator who imposed compulsory primary and secondary education in Siaya in 1915. So many people transitioned to higher learning at a time when other parts of the country were either grappling with colonial-instigated violence or preoccupied with means of toppling colonialists.
However, the paradox of Siaya County is reflected in the stark difference between the intellectual and the development level. While we cannot gainsay the achievements of these and other great minds in the national and global stage, locally, their contribution towards the development and alleviating poverty is negligible.
Since education is a means of equipping people with the requisite knowledge, skills, and expertise to solve problems in their immediate and future environments, Siaya is a pale shadow of its otherwise expected self.
It is agonizing in the stinking incompetence being perpetuated by Cornel Amoth Rasanga, a supposed holder of Masters in Law, and his ilk.
The balance of intellectualism has often tilted and lied favourably in Central Nyanza. However, there is a crop of young brains rising from the South that may shift this balance towards Migori and Homabay.
Unfortunately, during or after their first degree, these half-baked South folks emerge with feigned cut-glass accents, adorable sense of formal fashion, and turn into audacious swindlers and phantom merchants of fake gold.
They converge every evening in exclusively high-end clubs buying booze by the barrel, quaff them like sharks, rub their groins against the finest posteriors in the club, and go back to their cribs to sleep. In the morning with their hangovers, they’ll post those photos with ‘wamoke’ captions. Oliel!