Ruto's headteacher basks in glory after meeting his pupil, 43 years on

President William Ruto during the official laying of the foundation stone at Kamagut Primary School in Uasin Gishu County on January 08, 2023. [PCS]

When President William Ruto arrived in Kamagut Primary School, Uasin Gishu County where his basic education started, he quickly spotted his former headteacher, Joseph Ndirangu.

After shouting his name, Dr Ruto and Mr Ndirangu laughed heartily as they hugged and exchanged pleasantries. A video of the duo interacting has been making rounds on social media.

The 83-year-old, who retired in 1996,  describes meeting his pupil who rose through political ranks to become President as ‘thrilling and nostalgic’.

His deceiving looks make him look younger. Unlike men his age, he walks without the aid of a walking stick.

The retiree has since Monday, January 8, been basking in the glory of reconnecting with one of his most achieved students, the holder of the highest office in Kenya.

Seated at his humble abode in Songoliet, off the Eldoret-Nakuru highway in Uasin Gishu County, Ndirangu’s joy is still palpable.

He receives numerous calls, which he says are from peers, friends, and alumni of Kamagut Primary School.

Thrilling moment

Ndirangu says he had not met his former pupil for 43 years, since Ruto completed his primary school education and proceeded to Wareng’ Secondary School in the then Uasin Gishu District.

“I was thrilled. I had lined up to welcome him to the school. We talked briefly with the President but I don’t remember what we discussed because I was overjoyed. What I remember is that we laughed a lot,” Ndirangu says as an interview kicked off.

Ndirangu, who served as Kamagut Primary School headteacher for three years from 1978 to 1980 says he did not expect Ruto to remember him after four decades.

“My look has changed since then. I am now an old man and a lot has changed. I was surprised that he recognised me in a crowd and mentioned that I was his headteacher in primary school,” says Ndirangu, who was also supervising the construction of a modern house.

In primary school, Ndirangu recalls, Ruto was a charming pupil who actively took part in debates.

According to Ndirangu’s recollection, the young Ruto strictly followed school rules and rarely found himself in the wrong. However, whenever he broke school rules, Ndirangu says, his pupil sought to tell the truth and sought forgiveness.

“He was above average. I pray that he succeeds in governing the country,” the retired teacher said.

President Ruto was at the school to commission construction of learning infrastructure early this week.

At Annex area on the outskirts of Eldoret, Walter Kalando, who was Ruto’s Deputy Principal at Wareng’ High School described Ruto as a student who carefully chose his friends.

Mr Kalando, who was Ruto’s teacher of English and Literature as well as History, said the President’s language skills were shaped in Wareng’.

“Wareng’ High School was admitting students from rural areas. Ruto, like other students from rural areas, had serious pronunciation challenges but we worked on the challenges,” Kalando said.

He went on: “Silas Simotwo was his close friend. Ruto is good at keeping friends because Silas is still his close friend to date.” Kalando said Ruto had qualities of a student who was destined for greatness.

The retired teacher said he met Ruto ten years ago during a campaign rally in his Kajulu rural area in Kisumu and he advised him to be “steady and courageous” in his quest for the country’s top job.

“Like any teacher, Ruto’s achievement in politics is my glory. I played my role and he reached where every teacher wished their student to reach. I urge him to serve humanity well,” said Kalando who retired in 2010.

Brave rural boy

Jonathan Kurgat, the President’s classmate in Wareng’, said Ruto demonstrated rare courage during secondary school days.

“Ruto and many other students were from rural areas. We had never seen a hockey stick, which was a requirement when we joined Form One in 1981. During our first games break at Wareng’, Ruto took his hockey stick to the arena and joined senior students who were playing.

“Ruto and all of us who came from village schools never knew hockey or how to play the game. Senior students asked themselves why a Form One from a village school was challenging them in hockey,” Kurgat, a businessman in Eldoret, recalled.