Education Cabinet Minister (CS) George Magoha has kicked off a storm after he was caught on camera last week scolding a senior ministry official in front of colleagues and primary school pupils.
The incident, at Langas Primary School in Eldoret town, is the latest in what is becoming a disturbing trend of the minister humiliating his juniors in public.
During last week’s incident, Prof Magoha snarled at the Uasin Gishu County Director of Education (CDE) Gitonga Mbaka over the state of Langas Primary School.
“Nikisema wewe ni mjinga ni uwongo (Would I be lying if I said you are foolish?),” exploded the exasperated Magoha.
Mbaka’s crime? The CS found the school untidy and the county education boss had to answer for it.
And the CS was not done yet. According to parents who were present, Magoha ordered teachers to collect rubbish in the school compound in full view of their pupils.
“It was quite humiliating, but we had no option but to abide by the directive,” one of the teachers told People Daily.
Yesterday, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) demanded an apology from the CS, accusing him of disrespecting education officials.
Addresing a press conference in Nairobi, Kuppet national chairman Omboko Milemba protested that the CS’s conduct was unbecoming of a senior public official, let alone one who sets and directs policy on education in the country.
He condemned Magoha’s outburst in Eldoret, saying the CDE, Dr Mbaka, is a distinguished educationist of many years’ standing, having taught for 25 years before taking up the job as inspector of schools in the last decade.
Dr Mbaka is due to retire next month.
“Last week, during an impromptu inspection of Langas Primary School, the minister referred to the CDE as a ‘fool’.
From the clip of the incident, it is clear that Magoha did not fully grasp the import of Mbaka’s contribution at the briefing the minister held,” said Milemba
“Sadly, instead of listening to what Mbaka, his officer on the ground, had to say, Prof Magoha called him a ‘fool’ for the second time and ordered him out of the meeting,” Milemba observed.
The union’s Uasin Gishu branch secretary, Elijah Maiyo, also demanded an apology from the CS for humiliating an official in public and teachers before their pupils.
“The government does not hire fools as insinuated by the CS in reference to the county director of education. The county director and teachers are not fools and whoever thinks so is wrong,’’ Maiyo said.
Officials at Jogoo House, the ministry headquarters, and County Directors of Education now accuse Magoha of using threats and intimidation against them. To them, the CS has no good words for anybody.
“Instead of spending time formulating policies, he has taken over our mandate and duties through intimidation and threats.
Unfortunately, he has failed to empower us with resources to enable us to execute our work. Some of us are being forced to use our own resources,” one of the CDEs lamented.
Repeated attempts to get a comment from Magoha proved futile yesterday as he neither responded to our numerous phone calls or replied our short text messages.
A close aide promised to get in touch with the CS and send us his response but he had not done so by the time of going to press.
However, an official of the Kenya Primary Schools Headteachers Association (Kepsha,) who sought anonymity, defended Magoha, saying his comments on Education officials had been blown out of proportion.
“It depends on how people understood that statement (at Langas Primary School) and we cannot just judge and say the CS was wrong. We have, however, called for calm among teachers in the school,” said the official.
And an official of the Kenya National Parents Association who also sought anonymity defended the CS: “I would say that the CS must have been receiving reports that are different from what is on the ground and it’s natural for any person to lose their cool.
It is always important for officials to inspect schools as opposed to waiting for reports from other people.”
While on his way to Langas Primary School, Magoha is reported to have made a stop-over at Kapsisiywa Secondary School in Nandi county to inspect some development projects, where he turned his anger on one of his Personal Assistants (PA) and a contractor for allegedly having given him wrong information.
The CS is reported to have forced the PA to explain to the public why he had lied to him that the project was almost complete when it had actually stalled.
He also asked one of his drivers to tell the crowd how he (Magoha) manages his home so that they could follow suit.
“I wish someone can give me a hammer to deal with this contractor for lazying around. I can decide to camp here until the construction is complete,” Magoha threatened before driving to Langas.
Sometimes last year while launching a curriculum policy at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, Magoha in his characteristic fashion, launched a tirade at the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) officials for their opposition to the new curriculum.
“Have you measured the thickness of my skin? You will find that when I was at the University of Nairobi, my skin became thicker than that of an hippopotamus, so stop wasting your time.
If you have something better, why don’t you tell us what it is or shut up,” he said angrily.
And appearing before a parliamentary committee, Magoha derogatorily addressed the Chief Executive of the Kenya National Examinations Council, Dr Mercy Karogo, as “you woman” while asking her to respond to some queries from MPs, leaving everyone present puzzled.
“Wewe mwanamke kuja hapa ujibu hili swali haraka (You woman move here fast and respond to this question).
The Principal Secretary for Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority, Dr Julius Juan, also witnessed Magoha’s wrath after the CS told him off as he made a presentation on curriculum reforms in Naivasha.
“You can go tell such stupid lies to the birds or fools who haven’t gone to school,” Magoha stunned the audience.
And two weeks ago, while inspecting Isanjiro Primary School in Kakamega county, the abrasive CS snarled at the regional director of education Stephen Barongo: “I think you are in a wrong job.
You know nothing about what is happening in the field. You better remain in the office with your good suits to impress the people you want.”
And in September, while inspecting the Meru Polytechnic, the CS did not mince words: “The taps are well done and with required distancing but where are the soaps?
Use common sense, buy soaps and place them here. I don’t like people who don’t use their brains,” Magoha could be heard instructing the college principal.
Reached for comment, Mbaka downplayed the matter, saying he did not want to discuss his boss.
The school headteacher, Chrispinus Owako, denied the CS had ordered teachers to collect rubbish, saying the teachers picked “some pebbles” on their own volition.