Starehe Boys’ last bow for former CS Magoha

MAgoha George

Starehe Boys students paying their last respect to the Late Prof George Magoha at their school on February 8, 2023.

Photo credit: Evans Habil I Nation Media Group

Sixty-five years ago, a young vibrant and hopeful George Albert Omore Magoha walked through the gates of Starehe Boys Centre for his O-Level education.

Here, under the tutelage of Starehe founder Geoffrey William Griffin (now deceased), he was taken through the institution’s high standards of strictness.

“The discipline that was there is the reason why I am who I am today,” said Prof Magoha of his Starehe roots.

Yesterday, his body passed through the school’s gates one final time before his burial in his ancestral home. 

In life, Prof Magoha, the tall man with a sturdy build with an authoritative and booming voice was immaculate and a perfectionist. He was often confrontational in his dislike for lethargy and mediocrity.

In death, the former Cabinet secretary has been treated to an elaborate ceremony, and yesterday, a farewell caravan carrying his remains snaked through Nairobi and places where Prof Magoha had an impact or which played a significant part in his life.

These are the College of Health Sciences at the University of Nairobi, where he was a professor of surgery and rose to its top leadership as a no-nonsense vice-chancellor, the Nigerian High Commission, which hosts the embassy of his wife Dr Barbara Magoha’s country of birth, the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec), where he had a successful stint that saw a drastic reduction in exam cheating, and Starehe Boys’ Centre, where he sat his O-Levels in the 1970s.

 Nigerians walking along State House Road on February 8,2023 where the farewell caravan for the late Prof George Magoha was driven along.

Photo credit: Evans Habil I Nation Media Group

KMPDU salute

The caravan also snaked through the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council, where he was chairman, and State House Girls High School and St. George’s Primary School, both not so far from each other, and which were representatives of the schools Prof Magoha managed in his stint as Education Cabinet Secretary.

Lying lifeless in a brown casket, Prof Magoha passed through a road between two long lines of Starehe Boys Centre students, who bowed their heads as the hearse passed by. 

Known to have a knack for music, he would probably have joined the band members to reminisce about the good old days when he plucked the strings of a bass guitar.

The hearse, a black Mercedes limousine, matched his reputation as a man of impeccable dressing, being black and sleek, with a blue ribbon stashed on its bonnet, and roses on its roof. 

Behind the hearse, traditional dancers with green and red striped hats beat their drums, raised their palm sticks and beat their bells, singing to the man they called an achiever and a king who does not die but transits.

Dons and students paying their last respect to Prof Magoha at the University of Nairobi.

Photo credit: Evans Habil I Nation Media Group

The dancers, comprising Igbos, Yoruba’s Hausa’s and Efiks of Nigeria, were led by four masquerades, dressed in long white robes, faces hidden behind a white veil, secured in place by a wide-brimmed hat and a green rope.

“In Nigeria, we do not mourn an achiever with crying. We have to go with a band. People do not die, it is just a transition. He has made his impact here. We have come to mourn with our sister because our sister is mourning her husband. Back home we would do it with music, drumming and dancing. If he were a small child, we would be mourning. But right now we are celebrating his life. He is not dead, it’s just a transition, and each of us will go there someday,” said Chief Paulina George Otieno. The masquerades represent spirits who have come to mourn with the departed. 

At Starehe Boys Centre, his hearse rested before the administration block, a band on its left, which played hymns and dirges. For an hour, the hearse stood unmoved, as Mrs Barbara Magoha and her family engaged with the students. 

For one final act of goodbye, the band played “You made a way” and “Vumilia roho yangu,” before the entire family joined hands and stood together singing.

At his Lavington home, the celebration continued, and his wife performed tradition funeral rites by dancing with her son in front of her husband’s hearse.

Nigerian music played in the background, as she waved her scarf, moving from the left to right, as the hearse reversed into the home.

Behind her son, were their Nigerian relatives, nodding along and dancing to the songs. His family eulogised him as “an incurable performer”, and a “committed husband, father and grandfather who valued family at the core of everything.”


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