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Educationist’s magic touch turns schools around

By John Kariuki | January 28th 2015

John Muigai Gachoya was engaged by one secondary school that had a worrying mean score of four in KCSE in 2006. He got down to business and in the following year, the mean score shot to six and would reach 8.7 in 2013, following his rigorous advice.

A primary school would also engage him to turn around its scores after stagnating at a mean of 311 marks in KCPE. And by engaging all key stakeholders, separately and jointly, the mean would rise to 370 marks in one year.

Such is the legend of Gachoya who has been hired by more than 100 schools in the last ten years in Laikipia, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Murang’a, Nakuru, Kericho, Samburu and Bomet counties.

Gachoya taught in several primary schools in Laikipia before becoming a district inspector of schools (the precursor of the Quality Assurance and Standardisation Officer) with the Education ministry.

His last posting as an inspector of schools was in Samburu County. He took an early retirement in 1984 and worked as a branch manager of car seller Marshalls EA in Kakamega, Eldoret, Nyeri and Nanyuki before returning to his first love of education and founding his company Edu-Consultancy.

“When I am contracted to inspect a school, I start with the critical question: Why are the programmes and schedules failing? Inspection is not an event but a process that takes time to realise results,” he says and wonders how the current crop of quality inspectors do it in a mere hours.

“I take anything between three days and one week at every institution that contracts me,” he says.

After that, he gets everybody on board in formulating a vision of where they want to get. Often, repeat visits are necessary.

Gachoya approaches every institution with an open mind and learns first-hand how the systems work.

“The innovative part is that I never cloud my objectivity with gossip or the challenges from other schools that I have visited, but treat each case on its own uniqueness,” he says. And following the ministry of education guidelines on school inspection, Gachoya meticulously assesses all specified areas and beyond.

Gachoya spends time tackling the small things that are not in the ministry’s script but often turn schools around.

“These include simple improvements in the pupils’ diet, less delegation of duties to teachers by administrators and less amendments to the pupils’ duty rosters in their classes,” he says.

After assessing key areas, Gachoya delivers his findings and recommendations to the key groups separately.

“I tactfully deliver all contentious issues to the concerned people with the aim of guiding and not incriminating,” he says.

Unlike run-of-the-mill school inspectors, Gachoya always requests for a meeting with the parents of select classes or the whole school. He counsels the parents to cherish their children as they are and to stop comparing them with their siblings that have passed through other schools at different times.

“It is poisonous to keep on reminding a child how his or her elder brother or sister did in the same schools or class,” he says.

He also counsels them to get involved in their children’s lives.

And his advice to teachers: “It is not the length of service that you have put in that matters but the value of each lesson you teach. A teacher who does not read anything outside his or her subject area is functionally illiterate,” he says.

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