Dr Gitonga Mbaka, the Uasin Gishu County Director of Education, exhibits the mien of a contemplative man who avoids the limelight: a quiet scholar who takes time to study situations before making conclusions.
Were it not for the viral video in which the boorish Education Cabinet secretary George Magoha was captured giving him a dressing down, even calling him a fool, Dr Mbaka would have retired quietly in March with a little digital footprint.
But the events of last week at Langas Primary School in Kapseret have thrust the man into limelight after the clip of his humiliation went viral much to the indignation of the public.
The minister seems to have run afoul of the powers that be to the extent of having his wings in managing personnel at the ministry clipped over that clip. And now everyone is looking at the humble civil servant who is likely to fell a giant.
Although Prof Magoha has been defiant amid calls that he apologises to the man he publicly insulted and embarrassed, there is speculation that he could be moved from the docket, where he has demonstrated consistent inconsistency in policy pronouncements, or even be dropped from the Cabinet.
With the recent developments, does Dr Mbaka feel a little relieved that the bully has been dehorned? No, he says.
“I have forgiven the CS and I am focused on serving the country as I prepare for my retirement in March 2021 after over 35 years of service in the education sector,” he told the Nation on Saturday.
An outraged public, human rights lobbies, teachers’ unions and senators have demanded that Prof Magoha apologises to the official, with others even calling for his resignation or sacking.
In a statement yesterday, the CS said he would continue discharging his duties until otherwise directed by the President – the appointing authority.
So what happened between them?
“Other officials and I had taken the CS around the classrooms at Langas Primary School and he was satisfied that there were enough desks, thermo guns, and even water points for washing hands,” recalled Dr Mbaka.
“There was, however, change in after he saw the media and turned the focus on me asking why the school was untidy.
“Efforts to explain to him that construction activities were going on at the institution bore no fruit.”
The CS accused Dr Mbaka of failure to inspect schools in his jurisdiction. Interestingly, he seemed not to have known who Dr Mbaka was, for in the video he asks, “Na huyu ni nani? (Who is this?)”.
When he demanded answers on why the school was in the state he found it, Dr Mbaka stepped forward to explain, but Prof Magoha would hear none of it.
“Sir, I said I have a report… this is being addressed,” Dr Mbaka says in the clip.
“Nikisema wewe ni mjinga ni uongo? (If I say that you are fool, would I be lying?) You are talking about the report, I’m talking about what is here,” an angry Prof Magoha says.
“Sir, we have noted. We’re working on it.”
“Unaweza enda! (You can leave!) Get away from this meeting! Wewe ni mjinga kabisa! (You’re a complete fool)!” he tries to shoo Dr Mbaka away, but the official stays put.
A subdued Dr Mbaka stands by, holding some files, head bowed.
“Our CDE. The county director of education,” someone tries to explain. “He doesn’t understand the problem,” says Prof Magoha.
That is quite ironic for the man with a doctorate from America’s Northwestern Christian University, a Master of Education degree from Australia’s Monash University, and a Bachelor of Education degree from Kenyatta University.
“I have been receiving calls and text messages from my colleagues and directors at Jogoo House and even other officers who have also faced the same wrath from Prof Magoha, urging me to ignore what happened and concentrate on my work,” said Dr Mbaka.
Even with the pressure to apologise to the official, Dr Mbaka told the Nation that he has not received any communication from the ministry, except from colleagues who have had similar experiences with the brash CS commiserating with him.
Following the move by the Public Service Commission to strip Prof Magoha of HR powers, Dr Mbaka says it’s its mandate.
“The PSC is my employer and I have left everything to them to decide. Any decision they make is up to them,” said Dr Mbaka.
He termed his humiliation as unfortunate, adding that he saw no need to engage the CS in a verbal exchange.
“There was no way I was going to engage the CS in an exchange of words when there were pupils there. It could have been a sign of disrespect,” said the alumnus of Mukuuni Secondary School in Tharaka Nithi County and Kangaru High School in Embu County.
He worked as a teacher, a quality assurance and staff training in the Ministry of Education; deputy director of youth training in the Ministry of Youth Affairs.
He is currently designated as a Deputy Director of Education.