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Why Carey Francis threw a sick Gikonyo Kiano out of car

 Dr Julius Gikonyo kiano. [File, Standard]

What happens to an aspiring scholar who has the audacity to contradict a messianic teacher used to shattering young dreams even as he shaped the destiny of Kenya's future leaders?

Kenyans who went through the hands of revered Alliance High School founder, Carey Francis, knew better than to question his reasoning or his beliefs. Those who went against this wisdom paid a heavy price.

Long before he cut his teeth in politics, Julius Gikonyo Kiano, who was studying at Alliance, had supported Eliud Mathu's views of why Africans were entitled to their freedom. He was conversing with Francis who had given him a lift in his personal vehicle from hospital.

As soon as Kiano said words to the effect that Mathu was right, Francis ordered him out of his car. At the time Mathu was a teacher at the school but he was later hounded out by Francis.

"Francis was so incensed that he ordered Kiano out of the car. Sick as he was, the poor fellow had to walk some six miles back to school... As was characteristic of him, Francis later apologised," a former Alliance High School student, Duncan Ndegwa, wrote in his memoirs, Walking in Kenyatta's Struggles. At the time, it was unheard of for students to question Francis, who headed the school from 1940 to 1962. His word was law and teachers knew better than to test his patience.

Ironically, Kiano would become the first African in Kenya to get a doctor of philosophy degree (PhD) and would for a short stint serve as Minister for Education in 1968, after Kenya gained independence.

If Francis could react this way to a student who dared express an unpopular opinion on a political matter, one can only imagine his reaction when he learnt of the antics of a female Director of Physical Education.

When Miss Todd, who had already made a name for herself at Kagumo High, arrived at Alliance, she wanted to teach boys how to do cartwheel, but had to get clearance from Francis.

Interestingly at the time, there were three girls - Wambui Kenyatta, Musa Gitau's daughter Wambui as well as Isabella Wambugu - who were schooling at Alliance together with the boys although they had separate sleeping quarters.

The prospects of Miss Todd cartwheeling in her minuscule tennis shorts in front of a bunch of excited boys was too much a spectacle for Francis to contemplate and he cancelled the demonstrations.

Earlier at Kagumo, Miss Todd scandalised a teacher who, according to Ndegwa, caught the PE teacher mid-air just as she was about to jump over him. The teacher screamed that he had yet to retire from fathering children and believed that such an act as dictated by Kikuyu tradition would automatically render him impotent.

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