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When Jaramogi got a slap for getting a math quiz right


Jaramogi Oginga Odinga arriving at Nyayo Stadium during Madaraka day. [File, Standard]

That Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was a radical is not in doubt. In fact, his rebellious attitude began when he was a young lad in primary school, in college and later as a teacher.

Jaramogi (pictured) began his education at both Maranda and Maseno, then Alliance School before proceeding to Makerere College in 1940. He would later come back to Maseno, this time as a teacher.

It was at Maranda where the future politician, who had already dropped the baptismal names Obadiah Adonijah, had his first brush with authorities. It so happened that his teacher, Shadrack Osewe, had his way of solving mathematical problems. It was either his way or the highway.

Jaramogi was a non-conformist and always looked for the easier way out, rather than follow the complicated strategy espoused by the teacher. He would always solve the problem using his own formula but still arrive at the correct answer.

"On several occasions, our answers differed," he says in his autobiography, Not Yet Uhuru. "I had dared to say, 'Sir, I think you are wrong'. We had checked the sum together and he [the teacher] was wrong."

But the teacher, who was then like a small god, could not take the humiliation in stride. That is when he gave what Jaramogi described as a "hard slap on the face", while telling him to always follow the working on the board, point out any mistake thereon, rather than wait until the teacher had finished. When he reported to Maseno as a teacher, the highly-regarded mathematician, Carey Francis, was the headteacher. Few dared to question his manner of teaching, unless, of course, you were Jaramogi.

At Maseno, Jaramogi was in charge Class Five 'B'. Why 'B', you may ask? "The pupils were divided into two streams. Boys considered to have first-class brains were placed in the 'A' stream and the second-rate brains in the 'B' stream," he wrote. It was his goal to make sure that the boys in his class outdid the so-called first-class brains.

Here too, Jaramogi devised his own way of teaching, telling the class that there were as many ways of solving problems as there were brains in class. He got into trouble with Francis for insisting on veering off the 'Way'. He insisted on solving the problems his own way and Francis had no choice but to agree with him.

Perhaps Francis did not want more trouble from Jaramogi, who, when starting out as a teacher, had rejected the Sh70 offered as salary even when fellow teachers had taken the offer. Francis had to contact Nairobi for instructions if only to pacify the teacher. Nairobi set the starting at Sh90, another win for Jaramogi.

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