American philosopher and psychologist John Bewey once said: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
There are many leaders around the world who were built by their formative education. Some because of it, while other despite it.
Recent reports of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s childhood have begun to shed some light on how his educational experience, especially at St. Mary’s School in Nairobi, have shaped a man who has become a leader in the true sense of the world and has engaged in some unprecedented agendas over the last few years.
First, the petri dish that was St Mary’s School, with children from various backgrounds, nationalities and ethnicities, was an excellent guide on how to judge a fellow according to their personality and work rate, not their origins.
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According to others who attended the school, everything at St Mary’s was premised on meritocracy.
Over the years, it has become clear that Uhuru is a leader who cares less for a person’s origins and more for a person’s merit.
He has attended to all tribes, regions and religions in Kenya equally, not prioritising one over another.
Uhuru has his most trusted officials from a variety of backgrounds and is a great example for a nation still fighting with the demons of tribalism.
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Moreover, because there were many international students, Uhuru understood how to interact with people from abroad.
This has certainly helped him as he has become a major player on the global scene and has placed Kenya firmly on the diplomatic map.
Nevertheless, perhaps the greatest skill he learned at St Mary’s School was that despite being the son of the then-Kenyan President, Jomo Kenyatta, he was never allowed to feel differently from the other boys nor shown any preference by the administrators, teachers or his own family. Uhuru, it seems, was subject to exactly the same rules and punishments as every other student. He kept the same hours and no doors were especially opened for him.
There was no special privilege given to the young Kenyatta and this perhaps gave him the impetus to excel.
In fact, it is reported that he did so well that Mwai Kibaki, who at that time was the Vice President, had the honour of presenting an award to Uhuru for being the best ‘A’ level history student.
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Remarkably, Kibaki had been invited as a guest of honour at the ceremony not knowing Uhuru was listed for the award.
This is perhaps an episode that is most indicative of how Uhuru thrived at school, not because, but despite, being the son of the president.
Finally, and perhaps most astonishingly, is the story that when Uhuru was bullied, some of his friends convinced him to share the details with his father in the hope of his presidential intervention. However, none came and his father the president stayed out of the episode and refused to intervene.
This showed the young Kenyatta that he had to completely stand on his own two feet. He came from a great Kenyan dynasty but at school, where he would spend most of his childhood hours, it mattered little.
From here we can see clearly why Uhuru has placed as high on his agenda the eradication of corruption and graft. He was strongly educated, both at home and at school, to believe one has to earn what they receive and not take what is not theirs.
His determination to attempt such an ambitious plan as the Big Four stems from an education where he had to be determined to succeed and that nothing good will come easily, but only through strong effort.
Uhuru’s historic handshake with Opposition leader Raila Odinga is indicative of a man who as a little boy had to find common cause with others of varying backgrounds, beliefs and ideologies.
Put simply, if it was not clear before that Uhuru did not inherit either the presidency or his leadership qualities directly from his father, the stories of young Uhuru Kenyatta at school paint a picture of someone who was destined to lead.
Just as St Mary’s School left a mark on Uhuru Kenyatta, so Uhuru Kenyatta is determined and destined to leave an indelible mark on Kenya and far beyond.
Mr Maore is the Igembe North Member of Parliament