No-nonsense teacher who caned Riggy-G for his ‘future mistakes’

Julius Ndumbi believes disciplining kids makes them responsible

In Summary

• Former head teacher and future DP crossed paths at Kianyaga Boys' High School

• The now-retired teacher was a disciplinarian and urges society to borrow a leaf

Former Kianyaga Boys head teacher Julius Ndumbi during the interview
Former Kianyaga Boys head teacher Julius Ndumbi during the interview

Kianyaga Boys was the secondary school that unveiled and set in motion the illustrious teaching career of Julius Ndumbi, now 75, soon after completing his three-year Bachelor's degree in Education from the University of Nairobi.

The year was 1975, when the budding independent Kenya was yearning for his service due to the scarce workmanship and degree holders in the teaching profession.

As a result, the young Ndumbi and his fellow classmates, who notably were the pioneer class in the varsity's Bachelors of Education department, instantly got their letters of employment from the Teachers' Service Commission.

Ndumbi's first work station was Kianyaga Boys High School, where he served as a classroom teacher, teaching English, literature and humanities.

As fate would have it, he would rise through the ranks in quick succession to become the senior principal in 1979 after also serving as the school's deputy principal the preceding year.

At the youthful age of 31, it was incumbent upon him to discharge his new role with utmost responsibility and professionalism to more than 1,600 students and 35 staff members, who were placed under his tutelage.

People here call me Mwalimu and they particularly single out the DP now that he was my former student. People here call me Mwalimu and they particularly single out the DP now that he was my former student
Julius Ndumbi


In an exclusive interview with the Star, Ndumbi says he lived up to the billing. At no time did he feel intimidated by his enormous role in the mega high school as he believed in his capability to handle administrative roles.

This is besides having undertaken the requisite training in his campus years and additional short courses on effective administration that greatly complemented his new role.

It was during his tenure at Kianyaga that he would encounter thousands of students who have since risen to prominence and high ranks in modern Kenya.

Among them is Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who was his student from 1978 to 1982. So far, Gachagua is the highest-ranking professional among his former students, and his success story is no mean feat. Thus, Ndumbi finds it "very rewarding to be associated with him".

He said Gachagua's ascension to the position of the Deputy President was a momentous period that not only boosted his former teaching career but equally launched a plentitude of fortune and fame to his name.

It brought him wide publicity in his county and beyond. He is particularly associated with being the DP's former teacher and is fondly refered to as  'Mwalimu wa Gachagua'.

"People here call me Mwalimu and they particularly single out the DP now that he was my former student," he said.

"This to me is a great honour because as a teacher, your students' success is the outcome of the fruits of your hard work."

Teaching, he adds, is not only a job but most importantly a divine calling, which should be carried out whole-heartedly.

He recalled the text message he sent to Gachagua after his victory and that of President William Ruto was declared. 

“As a man who moulded you during your formative years," he wrote.

"I feel very proud that you have gone that high to occupy the second-most powerful office in this land.” 


On a number of occasions, the now-retired teacher, who later in his career would also serve as the school principal for Chuka Boys, Kangaru School and Muranga High School, said his fame has equally attracted its fair shares of challenges.

Despite his success, he narrates that not everyone has celebrated his achievements.

He recalls Gachagua as an academically endowed student, an immensely talented volley baller, an eloquent debater, a refined orator and an extremely ambitious character with a go-getter attitude.

Gachagua's debating skills were so impeccable that the debate club would feel the heat when he was absent during debate competition. 

Just as the Deputy President often describes him as a no-nonsense principal, Ndumbi recalls taking his disciplinarian role very seriously. He said it was vital in moulding and unleashing invaluable potential from within his students.

So disciplinarian was he that, during one of Gachagua's visits to Kianyaga High School, the DP recalled receiving additional doses of canes from the principal. 

“I remember I once received more canes from him than I was supposed to, so I went ahead and asked him why he gave me more than I deserved," Gachagua said.

"He responded that those were for the mistakes I would commit in the future."

All students, according to him, were equal before his eyes irrespective of their social backgrounds, and would own and pay for their mistakes.


This form of administering punishment did not go down well with some parents.

Ndumbi vividly recalls a nasty incident in which he clashed with a senior administrator for suspending his son over an indiscipline case.

He stood his ground despite the administrator confronting him with threats of reporting him to his employer.

"Thank God the school's board of management, the teachers' union and other senior education stakeholders threw their weight behind me and even lauded me for remaining firm,” he said.

Nonetheless, Ndumbi is glad to have aligned his students’ behaviour. He said his efforts paid off as all students who passed through his hands are outstanding and responsible members of the society.

He believes good academic performance and respect for one another go hand in hand with good behaviour, a policy he instilled in his students and still has faith in today.

He challenged the community to revive its role of instilling good morals in children as it were in yesteryears.

He decried that the current society has abdicated its responsibility, thus can partly be blamed for the decadent morals amongst its members.

"In years gone, instilling discipline was a collective responsibility, and that was one of the most precious efforts that helped shape the future of our children,”he said.

"I want the society to borrow a leaf so that their children can grow up as responsible members of the society."

Asked whether he still gets in touch with Gachagua, he praised him as a reachable leader. Amid his tight schedule, the DP creates time to bring together Kianyaga High School alumni for the benefit of his former high school, he said.

In his retirement, Ndumbi enjoys agriculture as a part-time job and spending time with his family.

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