The life and times of former Education CS Prof. George Magoha
Former Education Cabinet Secretary (CS) Prof. George Magoha on Tuesday passed away at the Nairobi Hospital following a short illness.
He is reported to have collapsed at home before being rushed to the aforesaid hospital where efforts to resuscitate him proved futile.
The late Professor has been described as many things; tough-talking, no-nonsense, strict and selfless.
He was not only revered and feared in equal measure, but he also left an indelible impression in every leadership position he had been appointed to.
71-year-old Prof. George Albert Omore Magoha was a medical doctor by profession having studied in Kenya and trained in four other countries.
Born in 1952, Magoha undertook his primary education in Yala and Nairobi before joining Starehe Boys Centre and Strathmore College for his high school education in Kenya. He then proceeded to the University of Lagos where he pursued his interest in medicine.
In his 91-page CV, which he submitted when he was being vetted for the CS position in 2019, Magoha described himself as “a top grade Professor of Urological and Transplant Surgery since 2000 at the University of Nairobi trained in Nigeria, Ghana, Ireland and United Kingdom.”
He joined the University of Nairobi in 1988 as a lecturer in Urological Surgery before becoming a fully fledged Surgery Professor 12 years later.
During the aforesaid 12-year-period, he also served as the Chairman of the Academic Department of Surgery, Dean of the School of Medicine and Principal of the College of Health Sciences,
He found his roots as a leader in the education sector when he was appointed to the helm of the University of Nairobi Health Sciences Department.
In his memoir, ‘George Magoha: Tower of Transformational Leadership,’ he attributes his ‘rising star’ to the selfless nature of undertaking what most would see as ‘lowly’ duties and to mentors who took notice of this.
His ambition, quick-thinking and practical leadership skills saw him rise to the position of UoN Vice Chancellor in 2005.
There, he accomplished what previous Vice-Chancellors had been unable to: sanity and accountability at the finance department as well as quality teaching and discipline of university students.
He retired from the position in 2014 but those who encountered him at the time still talk about the changes he made at the institution to date.
Two years later, he was appointed to Chair the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) where he also brought in a raft of changes.
Cases of exam leakage, cheating, alleged cartels in the sector and questionable marking techniques drastically reduced.
At one time, Prof. Magoha wondered why so many students would achieve an A-grade in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams but were unable to handle courses such as Medicine, Engineering and others.
He called it the ‘Kenyan obsession with the A-grade’.
Prof. Magoha, who was at one point also the chairman of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, became relentless in his quest for credibility and integrity of the primary and secondary school exams.
He is survived by his wife, Dr. Barbara O. Magoha, and son, Dr. Michael Magoha.
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