What do the competency-based curriculum (CBC), the standard gauge railway (SGR) and the free primary education (FPE) programme have in common?
They are the product of probably Kenya’s most transformative government policies of the past two decades.
Each also bears the stamp of decisive personal leadership, the kind that is very hard to find in the country’s public life.
Within the first 100 days of his presidency in 2003, Mwai Kibaki didn’t hesitate to make primary education in public schools free despite widespread reservations about the programme’s financial feasibility.
Faced with similar cost concerns, his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta nevertheless went full-steam ahead with building the SGR, to replace the 120-year-old Kenya-Uganda metre gauge railway.
The duo’s demonstration of leadership in FPE and SGR is aptly referenced in Jacob Kaimenyi’s new book, Don’t Hesitate, to illustrate the power of prompt action in achieving what may seem impossible.
Prof Kaimenyi, the Kenyan ambassador to Belgium and the European Union, also cites his own role in the implementation of the CBC when he served as Education Cabinet Secretary between 2013 and 2016.
“The basic education required urgent review. Time had come,” he writes.
Procrastination is a widely familiar habit, blamed for many personal failures.
It is a topic beloved of leadership and management coaches, relationship counsellors, motivational speakers and preachers.
Like all good motivational books, Don’t Hesitate gives a guide of why people procrastinate and how to avoid or escape the trap.
It does reference the inspiring stories of successful men and women such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates too.
But Prof Kaimenyi makes his book refreshing by infusing his personal stories and those of other local achievers such as Wangari Maathai, Njenga Karume, and Bob Collymore that many of us can relate with.
By any standards, Prof Kaimenyi is a top achiever.
Before his current tour of duty in Brussels, he had already risen to the very top of his professional and public service careers as a leading dentist, a senior university administrator and a Cabinet minister.
His many years in the academia and dentistry practice produced many firsts along the way, including becoming the first periodontologist and the first professor of periodontology in Kenya.
In a society that tends to link successful career prospects to academic qualifications, one would be tempted to imagine that Prof Kaimenyi owes his achievements wholly to his degree certificates.
That’s until you read Don’t Hesitate in which he puts success down to zero-tolerance for procrastination.
“If we can gather sufficient intolerance towards the habit of procrastination or dragging of the feet over our dreams and aspirations, we are on our way to becoming first class citizens in a first world nation,” Prof Kaimenyi writes.