The legend of John Muigai Gachoya has been sweeping across Laikipia, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Murang’a, Nakuru, Kericho, Samburu and Bomet counties over the last 10 years.
He is a maverick school inspector who has been giving learning institutions a fresh breath of life. He has visited more than 100 schools in these counties, and many of them repeat visits, to ensure quality teaching. He has succeeded where many had lost hope.
Gachoya’s first engagement was in one secondary school that had a worrying mean score of four in KCSE in 2006. He got down to business and the following year, the mean score shot to six and would reach 8.7 in 2013. A primary school would also contract him in 2006 to turn around the scores after stagnating at a mean of 311 marks in KCPE.
By engaging all key stakeholders, separately and jointly, the mean would rise to 370 marks in one year. And from then, the rest is legend!
Gachoya taught in several primary schools in Laikipia before becoming a district inspector of schools (the precursor of the quality assurance and standardisation officer, QASOs) with the ministry of education. His last posting as an inspector of schools was in Samburu county. He took an early retirement in 1984 and worked as a branch manager of the car seller Marshalls East Africa in Kakamega, Eldoret, Nyeri and Nanyuki before returning to his first love — education — and founding his company, Edu-Consultancy.
“When I am contracted to inspect a school, I start with the critical question: why are the programmes and schedules failing?” he says. He adds that inspection is not an event but a process and wonders how the current crop of QASOs do it in a few hours when they descend on schools. “I take anything between three days and one week at every institution that contracts me,” he says. After that he gets everybody on board in formulating a vision of where they want to get. Often, repeat visits are necessary. “I always follow through my work and make the necessary follow ups,” he says.
Gachoya approaches every institution with an open mind and learns first-hand how the systems work. “The innovative part is that I never cloud my objectivity with gossip or the challenges from others schools that I have visited but treat each case based on its own uniqueness,” he says. And following the ministry of education guidelines on school inspection, Gachoya meticulously assesses all specified areas and beyond.
Gachoya spends time fathoming the small things that are not in the ministry script but often turn around schools. “These include simple improvements on the pupils’ diet, little or no delegation of duties to teachers by administrators, too many amendments on the pupils’ duty rosters in their classes and so on,” he says.
After assessing key areas, Gachoya next delivers his findings and recommendations to the key groups separately. “I tactfully deliver all contentious issues to the concerned people with the aim of guiding and not incriminating,” he says. And unlike the run of the mill school inspectors, Gachoya always requests for a meeting with the parents of select classes or the whole school. He counsels the parents to cherish their children as they are and to stop comparing them with their siblings that have passed through other schools at different times. “It is poisonous to keep on reminding a child how his or her elder brother or sister did in the same schools or class,” he says. He also counsels them to get involved in their children’s lives. “Our commitment to work is not an excuse to ditch parenting,” he says.
Gachoya, who is usually engaged by individual parents and churches to counsel their congregations on parental role in learning, is an avid reader. He is currently reading See You at the Top by Zig Ziglar. He believes that a teacher who does not read anything outside his or her subject area is functionally illiterate. And he has a parting shot for all teachers. “It is not the length of service that teachers have put that matters but the value of each lesson they teach,” he says.
He reveals that two universities have been making contacts with him with a view to enriching their teacher training and education outreach programmes with his vast skills and knowledge.