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George Magoha's words of advice to the CS nominated to fill his big shoes

Outgoing Cabinet Secretary for Education Professor George Magoha when he addressed the press on July 29, 2022 during his tour in Migori to commission CBC classrooms. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

As he awaits National Assembly's approval to take over at the Education ministry, Ezekiel Machogu can borrow a few snippets of advice from his predecessor Prof George Magoha on how to run the docket.

President William Ruto on Tuesday nominated Machogu, a former provincial administrator and Nyaribari Masaba MP, to manage a ministry that is at the core of most Kenyans’ concerns especially now that they face the twin challenge of navigating the transition from the 8-4-4 system of education.

But, according to Magoha, whoever would succeed him at Jogoo House B must brace for tough challenges and not to fear making unpopular decisions or be afraid of being fired.

Acknowledging that he leaves behind ‘big shoes’ for his successor, Magoha said the ministry is dogged with many issues that need bravery to tackle.

In his earlier interviews with media, Magoha has been quoted on many occasions lamenting about staff lethargy, the existence of cartels at the ministry and non-compliance with sector directives.

Magoha pointed out that during his three-and-half-year stint, he tried and managed to fight cartels in the ministry which earned him many enemies.

‘‘The National Treasury allocated the Ministry of Education a total of Sh544.4 billion to support programs in the education sector. The next government should know that the education ministry is not a money guzzler. The government officials should know that this is not a place to embezzle public funds,’’ he said.

He further noted that unless the Elimu Scholarship that is channeled through Equity bank is well managed, it will be embezzled.

‘‘Elimu scholarships is a pillar that was introduced by the government to ensure the poorest of the poorest bright children access education for four years without disturbance. If not taken care of, then the funds will go into the wrong hands,’’ he said.

Magoha advised Machogu to shake the narrative of sitting at Jogoo House and must go out and work.

‘‘This ministry is a service ministry which requires you to be out in the field and not one who prefers sitting in Jogoo House B very close to the ultimate seat of power in Harambee House introduces many demands, many unplanned, unforeseen and arbitrary,’’ he said.

Magoha says the education sector needs serious leadership that embodies the national dream and is willing to carry the dream to its logical fruition.

 ‘‘Do not abandon your original plan to respond or engage in political talk and promises. Anchor your actions in solid research data and plans. Remain faithful to the sector strategy and do not fear being sacked or moved,’’ Magoha said.

Magoha further noted that anyone wishing to survive in the ministry should avoid fire-fighting, boardroom meetings or roadside shows.

‘‘Maintaining the focus to establish the “routineness” in connecting data, practice and policy. In this case, you will be able to eliminate the desire for being bossy and the alacrity of issuing roadside declarations. There will be a general desire to obtain early achievements for the government. That is why you see my office out there in schools like headless chicken,’’ he said.

Magoha also said Machogu has to embrace teachers on his side. ‘‘Teachers dictate both the frequency and quality of service delivery that is relatable to the learner, the parent, the guardian and the community in which the school is located,’’ he stated.

Magoha indicated that taking up a new role may be unique due to the nature in which the sector has evolved, developed and transformed in the last decade.

However, Magoha says modernised monitoring support and assessment systems for curriculum delivery should be given prominence.

 ‘‘In the first decade of the latest reform attempts that ran from 2013 to 2022, the sector saw immense growth through an evident increase in enrollment at all levels of education, quality improvement initiatives were piloted and actualised,’’ he said.

Magoha further advised his successor to be able to fit in the big shoes he leaves behind that was set by his predecessor, Dr Fred Matiangi.

The two CSs initiated many reforms and workaholic nature which saw them move across the country inspecting schools.

Magoha also mentioned the matter of teachers’ recruitment, salaries and remuneration which has been outstanding for nearly two decades.

‘‘The Kenya Kwanza Coalition manifesto proposed to invest in employing 56,000 more teachers to fill the prevailing teacher-student ratio gap,’’ he stated.

“The actual crisis facing schools is the fact that there is a very serious problem of teacher shortages, more so when we are approaching transition,’’ Magoha said.

As a start, the new minister must urgently address the disparity in teachers' recruitment.