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Teachers defender takes final bow at city hospital

By - | Apr 4th 2013 | 4 min read

By Augustine Oduor

­­­Kenya: “Ladies and gentlemen of the Press thank you for coming,” he often said at the start of his media briefing.

David Okuta Osiany, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) secretary general who passed on Tuesday night was a darling of everyone.

His abrasive voice was the hallmark of defending teachers’ interests. He had authority and commanded a lot of respect among more than 278,000 registered teachers across the country.

Osiany’s speech always had a tinge of humour yet laden with stern and firm stand of the union.

Many within and outside the teaching fraternity will certainly miss the man who was at the helm of the giant teachers union.

The family of the fallen teachers boss have described him as a ‘simple, jovial and down to earth father’ who sacrificed to give the best to his children.

They also said having grown up as an orphan, Osiany never liked to see anyone suffer.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Edwin Okuta, who is the eldest son in a family of eight children, said his father had passion for education.

“He always told us that he went to school under difficult conditions and never wanted to see anyone suffer to get education,” he said.

He said Osiany helped many people get education back at home in Kisumu and even in Nairobi.

“He had a helping heart for everyone and especially the less privileged,” said Edwin.

The secretary general established a private school — St Agnes Education Centre in Ahero to help the community.

“He wanted everyone to have education. The school has about 300 children drawn from the community and beyond,” he said.

Edwin said his father had been admitted at Aga Khan Hospital for the past three weeks and was discharged on Tuesday evening on his doctor’s recommendation.

Breathing problems

Osiany arrived home late in the evening and was happy to re-unite with his family.

“After a few hours he developed breathing problems and we had to rush him to the hospital,” said Edwin.

The family opted to rush him to Nairobi Women’s Hospital in Rongai for first aid. “It was already too late and he died on arrival at the hospital,” he said. His body is lying at the Lee Funeral home.

Last year, Osiany collapsed at his Ahero home and was rushed to hospital before he was flown to Nairobi for specialised treatment.

This happened a day before the nationwide teachers strike he was instrumental in organising.

He was ill for the better part of the three weeks strike that saw learning in public schools paralysed. But even on his sick bed, he still said: “This Government must be pushed to listen. So teachers must soldier on.”

During this period, President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta and the former Education PS James ole Kiyiapi visited him at his Rongai home.

But at the end of the strike, Osiany had gained strength and even went to his office in a wheel chair to call off the strike.

Edwin said his father was suffering from hernia and was operated on last year.

As a small boy, the Knut secretary general went to Onjiko Primary School in Ahero, at the age of seven, and moved on to the secondary wing of the school in 1969.

He proceeded to Cardinal Otunga High School in Kisii for his ‘A’ level before joining Kaimosi Teachers’ Training College where he graduated as a P1 teacher, marking the beginning of a long teaching career.

He was posted to Apondo Primary School after college and later to St Anne’s Ahero Primary School where he taught for 15 years.

As a teacher, Osiany earned a quick promotion that saw him become the deputy head teacher and later the head teacher of Karanda Primary School.

In an earlier interview with The Standard, he said he rose through the pay grades and was granted graduate teacher status when he attained the ATS II Level.

He said this was the turning point in his life as teachers recognised his leadership ability, and elected him to the Kisumu Teachers’ Co-operative Society.

Osiany leaves behind two widows — Belgona Okuta and Milka Okuta and eight children: Agnes Awino and Celestine Achieng, who are both teachers, Antonina Atieno and Edwin who are lawyers. Hemorike Omollo is an architect and Felix Otieno who is a pharmacist. The last-born daughter, Queentor Okuta just sat her KCSE examination last year.

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