The memoirs of former University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor George Magoha was launched this week at a colourful ceremony presided over by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.
The publication, Tower of Transformational Leadership, published by East African Educational Publishers, is a journey through the life and times of Prof Magoha, arguably, one of the most successful university managers in recent times.
In the past year, Prof Magoha earned accolades for the work he did at the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec), where he is the chairman, and where he instituted radical changes that brought sanity to a council that had become an auction market for exam papers and grades.
Both at the University of Nairobi and Knec, Prof Magoha demonstrated high sense of professionalism, commitment to duty, integrity and transparency in the management of public affairs.
Launching the book at the University of Nairobi, Dr Matiang’i commended Prof Magoha as person of rare courage, bravery, forthrightness, fortitude and transparency that phenomenally changed the council.
“Having worked very closely with him during the past year, when we traversed the country to monitor how exams are distributed and administered and later superintended over the marking and grading of the results, I can confirm, without any shadow of doubt, that Prof Magoha is a transformational leader,” said Dr Matiang’i.
“He has a missionary commitment to any assignment he undertakes, dogged determination to complete tasks and venerable compulsion to get things done.”
And speaking during the launch, Prof Magoha castigated those promoting tribalism in public life, saying the vice had killed professional excellence by promoting mediocrity and undermined efforts to create a unified and progressive nation.
“We must eliminate ethnicity in public life and give merit a chance,” he said. “I succeeded in doing what I have done, not by virtue of my ethnic background, but my outputs. We must discard ethnic mobilisation that has divided the country and devoured institutions.”
Dr Matiang’i expressed similar sentiments and decried tribal groupings in universities that had destroyed most of the institutions.
Prof George Magoha’s book is a journey through personal life, but more importantly, it is a voyage through the life and times of Kenya’s premier institution of higher education. It lays bare the challenges of running a university without cash; taming students socialised in street protests and re-awakening loyalty among demotivate employees.
It is a journey of triumphs and tribulations. Prof Magoha took over as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nairobi at tempestuous moment of political transition. The country was shifting from erstwhile restrictive system to an open and liberalised environment that came with opportunities and challenges.
In the book, Prof Magoha examines the issues at play at the university, ranging from increased student enrolment, shortage of qualified and experience academics, inadequate teaching and learning materials, poor funding and declining quality of academic programmes; and explains how he confronted them and the outcomes realised.
In an era of diminished State subventions to education and other social sectors, and higher education in particular, universities have to think creatively and innovatively. And that is what Prof Magoha did. He embarked on budget rationalisation, cost-cutting and fundraising while seeking non-conventional ways of generating incomes. True to this mission, he was able to raise Kshs.2.8 billion from internal sources that was used to put up this top-class building.
Prof Magoha’s book also takes through a journey of the medical profession. As a practising medical doctor, trainer, examiner and regulator, Prof Magoha has made a mark in the medical sector. His contributions are notably recognised when he served as a lecturer, chairman and principal of the College of Health Sciences. Currently, he serves as the chairman Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board, where he has played an instrumental role in regulating medical practice and training.
In sum, Prof Magoha has set an example and it is a challenge to academicians to write their memoirs and create a body of knowledge that posterity can look up to for inspiration, guidance and direction.