Copious praise has been heaped on one Cabinet Secretary for two weeks now, which is fine for credit earned.
But the accolades should also be given to other distinguished members of the team, who injected gravitas in the management of the just-concluded national examinations.
CS Fred Matiang’i, without any doubt, brought character to the management of the national exams from Jogoo House. But the Kenya National Examinations Council also has another exemplary technocrat — Prof George Magoha. He is no push-over. He is a man of intellectual substance and proven management acumen.
During the decade he was Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi, he elevated the premier institution beyond the business-as-usual mode. Academic standards improved, student unrest was contained, communication in the public university acquired a new structure and urgency.
These changes ensured the university reclaimed its credibility, and improved its continental rating as an institution of higher learning. Magoha did not find it easy as VC, but he knew how to manage the intrigues that included ethnicity, malice, envy and peer rivalry.
During one of the seasons of backstabbing at the University of Nairobi, Magoha was candid with the rabble-rousers, who often conspired with a false sense of entitlement.
He told them he was not at the university for money, status or prestige. He had all these, and more, long before he was appointed Vice Chancellor.
He told the ‘intrigue-makers’ he was making a lot more money in a single surgery than he earned as a VC in a month.
But he accepted the appointment to make a mark. He disarmed the trouble makers by simply hitting them below the belt, in his usually robust, humorou and witty. yet stern way.
When Magoha left the UoN after a successful tenure, he was appointed chairman of the Knec, with a reform and image reconstruction agenda. It was no soft-landing: He went there to restore the integrity of national exams.
He is not your run-of-the-mill chairman of a state agency. He is not ‘kawaida’ or a routine public servant. In Dr Matiang’i, he found a teammate, alongside others such as teachers.
For the first time, Form One students will report to schools five days after the beginning of the academic calendar. Principals who are used to shortchanging parents on tuition and length of the term, better get used to this new sense of precision.
For the first time, KCPE results were released a month after the end of the exams — a record show of precision. And for the first time, the results came on December 1, giving parents reasonable time to look for school fees. And for the first time, there were few cases of cheating.
Coming after a record-breaking shambolic management of the 2015 exams, this year’s performance shows something has changed: The Matiang’i team did the work for which they are paid. The public got value for money.
This example can be replicated if President Uhuru Kenyatta whips the rest of the Cabinet. Yes, if the President weeds out the lacklustre performance in his government. Matiang’i is a product of good mentorship. He was a student of former Cabinet minister and 2002 Ford People presidential candidate Simeon Nyachae.
Mzee Nyachae, a former DO, DC, PC, PS, Chief Secretary, and a one-time minister for Finance, Agriculture and Water, among other dockets, was always the star in the constellation of the Kenyatta, Moi, and Kibaki administrations. Nyachae had a touch of gold, a Midas touch, in every institution he led, including his private businesses.
Nyachae is a disciplinarian, a time manager, a man of integrity, and produced results that give value for public money.
Matiang’i was Mzee Nyachae’s private secretary between 1997 and 2002. In the Education CS then, one can see the best of Mzee Nyachae. And, in Prof Magoha there is hope that merit can be reclaimed as a critical factor in public appointive positions.