Christopher Khaemba is a household name in education circles.
He is easily remembered for heading academic giants Alliance High School and also pushing Friends School Kamusinga to excel in national examinations.
However, what many people may not know about Khaemba is his passion for sports that he supports in the schools he is posted to.
Khaemba believes that sports develops more than just athletic skills and winning mentality. He says, sports builds strength of character and offers lifelong lessons on collaboration and how to deal with challenge and adversity. He avers that sports is complimentary to and supports academic work.
He was a leading coach and supporter of various sports. Just as in class work, the schools he has been involved with sports-wise have also been trailblazers.
His favourite game as a coach is basketball. However, the teacher and school administrator, who is now at Nova Pioneer Schools as co-founder and director, believes in developing all-round students and supports sports that his students and teachers under him like.
These include rugby, handball, chess and swimming. He believes that academic excellence, while being very important in education, does keep students in perpetual motion, thereby limiting access to full education.
“Academics is vital in education, but it’s not the end all and be all. Students must be supported in extra-curricular activities such as sports in order to realise their full potential in different fields and prepare them for all future possibilities,” says Khaemba.
Khaemba started coaching as a young teacher at Alliance High School in 1984. At the time, Samuel Maneno, then school principal, was the coach of the basketball team. Maneno, another sports enthusiast, discovered that Khaemba was interested in basketball, a game he had played since his student days in Maseno School and in the Military.
Maneno invited the young teacher to be his assistant coach. Two weeks after Khaemba joined the school, he was asked to accompany the team to the Rift Valley Academy for a friendly game with an all-American team that was based in Kijabe. That was his first stint as a basketball coach, and he was soon made head coach at Alliance High School.
The last time the School had played in the national secondary schools championships was 1982, but in 1985 with Khaemba in charge, the team lost narrowly in the provincial final at Mangu High.
Former Kenya Basketball Federation chairman, Dennis Aluanga, was the team captain and deputy school captain at the time. In 1986, Alliance basketball team played in the provincial final, again in Mangu High School. They thrashed the hosts and represented Central Province at the nationals in Mombasa. For the first time, Khaemba faced national basketball legends such as St Patrick’s Iten (Rift Valley), Cardinal Otunga (Nyanza), Easteigh Secondary School (Nairobi), Friends School Kamusinga (Western) and learnt valuable lessons.
From then on Alliance had to fight for top spot in Central Province with Mang’u and Nyeri Baptist. Mr M.K. Wagitu, the founder and director of Brookfield Boys High School Karatina and Brookfield Academy, took over as principal of Alliance and was very supportive of Khaemba and basketball.
In a few years Khaemba became Careers Master, Senior Master and in 1990, Mr Wagitu promoted him to the position of deputy principal. Khaemba acknowledges that without Wagitu’s support, he couldn’t have achieved much in sports and that is when he started appreciating the support of school authorities in extra-curricular activities.
“A lot of sporting talent lies undiscovered in our schools because school administrators devote all their energy and resources in academics at the expense of extra-curricular activities. The two should complement one another,” says Khaemba.
In 1990, Alliance lost to Kwale High School featuring a point guard called Gideon Kioko Mbuvi who is now Nairobi County Governor.
Khaemba later discovered that Kenya Ports Authority had seconded a coach to scout and train the Kwale boys with a view to recruiting them to the KPA club team.
Seeing that sports could create careers for his students only increased Khaemba’s appreciation of games in the school calendar. The best performance for Alliance during his short stint as coach was in 1985 and 1986 when they played in the national final.
In 1986, Khaemba moved to Friends School Kamusinga, where he inspired a strong sense of performance through sports, drama and music. For three years the school qualified for the nationals in all these areas.
He returned to Alliance as principal in 1998 and restored the school’s status as giants in sports and drama. Today, as a member of the continental leadership team of the Nova Pioneer Schools, has continues to encourage the tradition of balancing academics and sports.