Magoha, the professor of consistent inconsistency
What you need to know:
- On July 7, he said 2020 is a lost year due to the Covid-19 pandemic; that primary and secondary schools would not reopen until January 2021.
- By September 10, the message on reopening had changed to “we shall relook, depending on how the virus behaves”.
- By September 17, there was talk of a proposed November reopening, which Prof Magoha rebuffed but said many options were being explored because the infection curve was flattening , and “it is very good news for all of us”.
On page 25 of his 91-page curriculum vitae of August 2018, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha revealed that between June and August 2009, he attended a management course at the Stanford University’s graduate school in the United States.
The result of that short course was a certificate in executive management, which he mentions at least three times in the CV. That made him a professor of surgery and consultant urologist, with exotic training in executive management.
But if his actions and utterances in the past few months are anything to go by, the 68-year-old Starehe Boys alumnus might use some of his notes on management and surgical precision.
Heading a ministry that takes a third of the national budget, where a single policy change might mean heavy expenditure for the government and the public, Prof Magoha’s inconsistent messaging on the reopening of learning institutions after they were closed in March has made him a subject of ridicule.
On July 7, he said 2020 is a lost year due to the Covid-19 pandemic; that primary and secondary schools would not reopen until January 2021.
By September 10, the message on reopening had changed to “we shall relook, depending on how the virus behaves”. By September 17, there was talk of a proposed November reopening, which Prof Magoha rebuffed but said many options were being explored because the infection curve was flattening , and “it is very good news for all of us”.
“We’ve sanctioned the experts to go and work on a timetable, which I myself don’t know,” he said that day.
By September 21, teachers were being ordered back to school to prepare for reopening, though Prof Magoha insisted that the ministry had not said schools were reopening.
That return by teachers might have triggered a back-to-school mood as parents waited with bated breath what President Uhuru Kenyatta would say in his address of September 28 — the same day teachers reported back to school.
President Kenyatta, however, shattered any hopes of a reopening when he said work needed to be done on the “how” of learners going back to class, which appeared like a torrent of cold water on the plans that were on course as per the messaging from Prof Magoha and the Teachers Service Commission.
Two days later, Prof Magoha was in Parliament telling MPs that the decision on reopening “will be made by everybody”, listing MPs, the President, himself and stakeholders as the “everybody”. He added that it was “about time” schools reopened because most of the countries surrounding Kenya had either not closed their learning institutions or had reopened them a while back.
“So, we are the only red on the map and we are not animals. We are human beings,” he said.
As it stands, it is unclear what direction the government wants to take on reopening, and while some might point a finger at Prof Magoha, he says it is the media that has been the agent of confusion.
For instance, on September 14 he told journalists: “All that was being said and printed in newspapers, those were your opinions. There is only one bona fide spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, and that person for the time being is the Cabinet Secretary, who happens to be my most humble self.”
That was typical Magoha who, whenever a chance arises, will always want to remind people about who calls the shots at the ministry, and that the ultimate power belongs to his boss, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta.
He says in his CV: “I am a firm hands-on and results-oriented transformative leader practising professionalism, team work and team spirit rather than command and control.”
Is the former chairman of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board living up to his self-description on his CV? The jury is out. A man who was the University of Nairobi vice-chancellor for 10 years up to 2015 —where, among other things, he oversaw the construction of the imposing UoN Tower without a loan as he said during his vetting in Parliament — before being appointed to head the Kenya National Examinations Council, where he played a key role in stamping out leakage of national examinations.
But Prof Magoha’s report card, since taking over as Education CS in March 2019, has hardly recorded a good grade.