Bull in a china shop: Magoha's abrasive style seems to pay off
- He slammed politicians and education stakeholders opposed to the National Education Management Information System, terming them busybodies.
- In June, while addressing the secondary school heads conference, Prof Magoha said that he is a proud man who is mistaken for being arrogant.
Senior staff at the Ministry of Education have now become accustomed to their no-nonsense boss, Professor George Magoha.
Whenever he addresses them on critical issues in the sector, he does not mince his words.
Because of this, the staff now walk on egg shells, carefully measuring whatever they say in the professor’s presence lest they suffer his wrath.
Terms such as “stupid”, “who the hell do you think you are”, and “I will crush you!” are never far from the former university don’s lips.
When he took over as Cabinet secretary at the ministry in March, replacing Ms Amina Mohamed, Prof Magoha promised to deliver credible examinations at the end of the year.
He indicated he was going to continue with the legacy he had established while at the helm of the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) in 2016.
ENEMIES OF GROWTH
And true to his words, in his first day in office, he was captured in a video that went viral on social media giving a tongue-lashing to ministry employees after he established that many of their colleagues had not reported to work.
His directness has also made some of the staff avoid him for fear of being embarrassed in front of their colleagues.
The CS’s abrasive nature is not limited to his staff – he extends it to critics of his ministry’s policies.
On Wednesday while releasing this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination results, he slammed politicians and education stakeholders opposed to the National Education Management Information System (Nemis), terming them busybodies”.
“I have no apologies to make to anybody as we move along. I have been given the powers by President Uhuru Kenyatta, and shall call for any data that I need. I have orders to evaluate and check that my officers are doing what I want them to do,” said Prof Magoha.
In May, while launching the curriculum policy at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum development (KICD), he attacked Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) officials for their opposition to the new curriculum.
The CS, who was only two months old in office, could not hide his disappointment at those opposed to the rollout.
“Have you measured the thickness of my skin? You will find that when I was at the University of Nairobi, the skin became thicker than that of a hippopotamus, so stop wasting your time. If you have something better, why don’t you tell us what it is or shut up,” said the angry CS.
“What the hell do you think you are to be saying that nothing is going on? Why are we lagging behind, because we spent more time thinking about nothing, we should focus on issues that are measurable,” he added.
He also used the event to dress down a ministry official who had failed to invite Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) yet went ahead to invite Knut, which turned down the invite.
“This is the politics that I don’t want and this stupid thing must stop,” said the visibly angry Prof Magoha amid laughter from participants.
In June, while addressing the secondary school heads conference, Prof Magoha said that he is a proud man who is mistaken for being arrogant.
“I am going to explain to you the way I look. I know niko na sura mbaya (I have an ugly face). But having said so, my strength comes from God.
I am a professor and people say I am proud. Yes. If I am not proud of myself, who is going to be proud of me? So you should also be proud as teachers because teachers are the most important professionals,” he said.
He explained that as a former Starehe Boy, he cannot be arrogant, but he is firm.
This firmness seems to have brought back confidence in the Education ministry with officers now going out of their way to prove their worth.
After taking over, Prof Magoha reshuffled officers and warned that they must work or face the axe.
While serving at UoN, Prof Magoha streamlined processes at the university, ended student strikes, raised the institution’s profile and initiated the construction of UoN Towers.
The early release of examination results and the dismantling of cartels that used to leak exams is also credited to Prof Magoha.
When he arrived at Knec, he quickly conducted a structural and administrative reorganisation.
All top officials were vetted afresh and those found unsuitable exited. Those who survived the purge were committed to excellence. And the results showed.
Prof Magoha is also a hands-on person who does not believe in delegating responsibilities.
When he was approved by the National Assembly’s appointment committee chaired by Speaker Justin Muturi, the report said: “The nominee has a strong personality, a trait that would be useful in managing the affairs of the ministry and in particular the various stakeholders”.
While releasing this year’s KCSE, Prof Magoha said they had lived up to the expectation of Kenyans to deliver credible examinations.
“We have restored the credibility of our national academic credentials. Kenyans can now wear mirthful and confident faces whenever they are admitted to study in world-class universities. They can find jobs in any part of the globe feeling confident that they are equal to any assignments that come their way,” he said.
However, Prof Magoha appears to have a challenge in fixing the university sector where he has spent most of his time. He has lost several cases on the appointment of university administrators.
Due to his work, Prof Magoha has been shortlisted for a prestigious global award. He is a finalist for the Global Citizen of the Year Award, which honours an individual who has demonstrated exceptional and sustained impact towards the goal of ending extreme poverty.
The award’s organising team noted that his management practices stand out and have achieved incredible results.