George Magoha: a true legacy of public service and patriotism

Former Education CS George Magoha.

Former Education CS George Magoha. FILE PHOTO | NMG

We live in a society where despite public pronouncements on the importance of serving the public with dedication, those entrusted with leadership often pay lip service to the call.

The death of Prof George Magoha should serve as a wake-up lesson to all about the importance of selfless service. Way too often people see positions as opportunities for self-aggrandizement and power consolidation.

Despite the directives in Chapter Six of the Constitution that leadership is about service and that those who are given the responsibility to serve in any position should do so with diligence, honour and commitment to the public good, very few people take these words seriously.

Many who interacted with Prof Magoha will attest to his firm and sometimes brash nature. Behind the steel character lay a true Kenyan patriot. Four spaces that he influenced demonstrate his true nature.

Read: Former Education CS George Magoha dies at 71

First, he was an old Boy of Starehe Boys Centre and School. He carried the school's legacy wherever he went and was not shy to speak about it, defend the school and its ethos and remind all that the institution held in his personal development and Kenyan society.

When students completed their studies at the school, there was a culture which encouraged every person who had studied in the school to carry its good name wherever they went.

The school focused on true service and servant leadership. We were all urged to put our best into whatever task was assigned to us, however small or big that assignment was. Prof Magoha surely lived true to that exhortation.

At the University of Nairobi, from the College of Health Sciences to his stint as Vice-Chancellor, he was a transformative leader.

His footprints on the university are self-evident —from the quality of physical facilities to the increase in the number of graduates and the institutional profile.

The law faculty graduated a record high number of graduands during his reign, established its Mombasa and Kisumu campuses and increased staff numbers.

His stint at the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) and then the Ministry of Education demonstrated his true commitment to public service.

At KNEC he was able to restore integrity in the examination process, while as Cabinet Secretary he oversaw the rollout of the competence-based curriculum (CBC) amid huge challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

The true legacy is not his service in all these and other spaces, it is in the manner he served. He was never shy to express an opinion, nor did he seek to personalise the public spaces.

Read: Magoha returns to class after minister job

He took to his tasks with a single dedication to give it his best. One may debate about the approach he used but never his patriotism and single-minded focus.

He demonstrated to public servants that it is possible to serve with distinction, transform society and remain true to the constitutional dictates.