By Silas Nyanchwani
When Cleophas Ondieki was transferred from Cardinal Otunga in the aughts, the slow death of once a might giant that was a national school in all but a name, begun. My brother went to Cardinal in the 1990s and the pictures he used to bring home were of an idyllic red city, a school so good it used to be a dream of many a young boy in primary school to go to Cardie. We used to cry when not admitted to the school.
I went to give a talk in Cardinal Otunga in 2011 when Kelvin Job Ogaro invited me and the school was a pale shadow of the glorious red city days. I cried. The school that at one point produced 60 per cent of the Kenyan diplomatic elite and some of the most illustrious civil servants was no more.
I went Nyamagwa. In the early 2000s the mean was always 7.5-8.5. In my four years at school, the small, if forgettable provincial school became a giant in Nyanza and nationally, we featured in the top 40. The last student used to score a C plain.
I checked on last year’s result and the mean was 4. I cried. Its death can be traced to the transfer of one man from the school.
One man, using the church has permanently ruined the once great schools in Kisii County and he can’t be called out because Kisiis for all our anger and courage simply cannot call out a man abusing his religious authority. A senior MP once told me, he dare not touch the man or his meddling of school, lest he loses the votes of the church.
There is no doubt transferring of school heads usually affects the performance we recently saw in Maseno where Otula, arguably the greatest head teacher in recent times was forced out of the school.
A little digression.
I have met Otula twice in my life. Once he came to our high school, and while walking next to him, he asked me of I play Basketball. My answer to that question always breaks many hearts, including Otula’s. Otula is so tall, must be like 6’7. He dwarfs me, someone who is always the tallest within any 100-mile radius. I met him in Nakumatt Lifestyle a couple years ago, and he always smiled the knowing smile we tall people give each other.
Otula focused both on academic excellence and extra-curricular activities to mould students at Mangu and Maseno. Great guy.
Anyway. Principals are not meant to last permanently in one station. But some usually do establish a synergy in one place raising the profile of schools massively and in my view, we should make exceptions. If we can’t, the transfers ought to be done in orderly fashion. This January mass transfers are being done in hasty because Kenyans are treated like Form ones…only to be seen, not to be heard.
But the Education ministry is run by a fascist, hellbent in reining terror as the innocent Kenyans cheer. But the carnage he will leave in his wake will last as long as we live.
What is it with jumpy, knee-jerk decisions. Why open schools on Jan 2nd. Common sense dictates that people are traveling from home to work, recovering from Christmas and New Year celebrations. Parents have to look for school fees, shop and all. What will happen if the calendar was adjusted by a week?
I mean teachers will be on strike at some point in 2018, I mean 80 per cent of the kids have no guarantee that they will be admitted into university or any tertiary institutions. I mean we spend half our lives in traffic.. What is the rush.
How come during Moi’s time, we used to pay for education. The quality was not bad. And it was affordable. I mean my high school fees used to be Sh 32,000 at the outside. I went to a good provincial school. Even if you were to adjust for inflation and everything, there is no way the money can run up to Sh 80,000 in a 10 years.
If you think the way the ministry is run is the best way, then you need to have your head examined.