Former Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha was yesterday laid to rest at his Umiru home in Gem, Siaya County.
There was an outpouring of grief as the country bid farewell to a man who touched many lives.
Speaker after speaker at the funeral, including former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Azimio leader Raila Odinga, described Prof Magoha as a selfless servant who went about his duties in the education sector with zeal.
The funeral service was conducted at Odera Akango University grounds where thousands turned up to witness the final send-off of a great man. Other Kenyans followed the burial on TV and online, with his burial trending in several social media sites.
Magoha’s family said the life the late don lived was that of an inspiration that Kenyans should emulate.
Dr Barbara Odudu, Prof Magoha's widow said she had a lost a great man with whom she had shared 40 years of her life. She described Magoha as a man who brought hope to people.
“He always gave hope to others and was passionate about improving lives of people,” she said.
Dr Michael Magoha described his late father as a man who dedicated his life to service and who was always keen to ensure that everyone grows.
“He was not perfect but he did his best. He let everyone be the best version of themselves. What excited him most was people's ability to do something,” said Michael.
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Leaders who attended the burial, led by Uhuru, described Magoha as a towering national icon who inspired hard work and commitment to enlightenment.
The former President eulogised Magoha as a hardworking public officer who was never distracted by politics.
Recounting Magoha’s achievements as Education minister, Uhuru said Kenya should be grateful to the deceased for championing 100 per cent primary-to-secondary transition.
“He went further to develop the curriculum and standards for universities that are emulated by other countries. Magoha took on the challenge of refreshing our curriculum to make it better-suited for the future of our children," Uhuru said.
He gave examples of how the late professor transformed the education sector during his stint as CS as well as when he served at the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC).
“He was a man that was before his time. He was a man committed to education, a man committed to enlightenment, a man who saw each and every person as his brother and sister entitled to equality,” said Uhuru.
According to Uhuru, Magoha helped eradicate cheating in national examinations. “Under his leadership, he managed to move to transition rate from primary to secondary school to 100 per cent. He made sure that no child ended his education at Standard Eight because of lack of school fees,” said the former president.
He challenged leaders to embrace national unity and emulate Magoha’s steps that were driven by the need to serve Kenyans.
President William Ruto described the late Magoha as a go-getter and an icon. “We have lost an amazing person whom we have known as a brother, colleague and mentor. A fallen national hero. He has been an icon for the rest of us,” said Ruto in a speech read by ICT CS Eliud Owalo.
The President and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua did not attend the burial. In his speech, Ruto shared fond memories of Magoha.
“He visited individual homes to find out why children were not in school. He loved order, industry and results. He was impatient with laziness and mediocrity,” said Ruto.
Raila mourned Magoha according to Luo traditions, clad in traditional attire and carrying a spear and a shield. His entry briefly interrupted the programme as mourners welcomed him.
He walked straight to the platform where Magoha’s coffin was placed. For about a minute, he chanted the Luo traditional dirge “Jowi”, as he swung his whisk across the casket. At this time, the programme was stopped amid screaming and ululations by mourners.
The former prime minister praised Magoha for pushing for equality and serving all Kenyans selflessly without considering their tribe or the colour of their skin.
“He was keen to put a level playing ground. He set a standard for equality. I am proud to have been associated with Magoha. We have given him honour enjoyed only by Luo heroes,” said Raila.
Magoha's burial was also attended by several MPs, former CS's, PS's and current members of Ruto's Cabinet led by Magoha's successor Ezekiel Machogu.
CS Machogu said his death came as a shock to the country. He described him as a distinguished scholar and medic who was in a class of his own. Magoha died on January 24 after suffering a cardiac arrest.
At the time of his death, the family of the former CS had been finalising plans to bury their brother Prof Alex Magoha who died in US. Alex was buried on Saturday 28, 2023 at his Umiru home in Yala.
Additional reporting by Harold Odhiambo