A Model For Servant Leadership
Truth be told, the world needs servant leaders everywhere: in all nations as well as in the family. Without promoting servant leadership, we risk having another world war or having our children morph into social derelicts.
So let me tell you of a friend who exhibited servant leadership. And that's none other than Philosopher David Munene whose photo I have displayed above of him posing with my general Moses Aran. He served as Starehe Boys' school captain from around August '06.
Munene was a classmate of mine in the Starehe Boys' 4F Class of '05 who was nicknamed Philosopher by some 4F classmates because of his philosophical remarks. He was first promoted to be a red-lion, as the three head-honchos of the Starehe prefectorial force were called, sometime in 2005.
When Munene was announced a red-lion back then during one school assembly, the whole hall burst into a seething cauldron of cheers. That reflected the kind of wise person he was because as the Book of Proverbs points out, there is always great rejoicing when a righteous man ascends to power. I would also have chimed in the cheering by brushing my fingers across the piano had I not been jeered when I attempted it earlier on in the assembly.
Munene and I happened to have been among the students interviewed for a job by one Mr. Njoroge as our high school years drew to a close. He was offered the job and I wasn't. But he declined it and instead chose to report back to the Starehe Institute to continue serving as a red-lion while pursuing a Diploma in Information Technology. Me, I madly craved to have the job because I didn't want to return to the institute. But since Mr. Njoroge refused to employ me even after following up on my interview results, I had no choice but to return to Starehe to pursue a diploma course in Information Technology just like Munene.
That failure to get the job turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I would have missed the great days of learning and adventure I had at Starehe Institute. And I later learnt that Mr. Njoroge's job was low-paying and deadly-dull because it involved such menial tasks as cleaning his office. So Munene was wise to decline the job offer. A wise man, wasn't he?
As we prepared to report back to the institute in December '05, I advised Munene to emulate Gilbert Kimani: the 2002/03 Starehe Boys' school captain who came across to me as friendly and easy-going. Both Munene and Gilbert bore resemblance in that they were of the same physical size at the time they served as school captains of Starehe. Actually, I think Munene was thinner in his time as school captain than Gilbert in his - something that led my general Moses Aran to backbite him by saying, "This Munene is very thin!"
Judging by his recent Facebook posts, I am happy to report that Munene has gained weight these days which I think is beneficial for his wife Miriam for obvious reasons. See?
What I appreciated most about Munene in his reign as school captain was the way he held me in high esteem. He once referred to me as a genius while addressing students in a baraza for me having set up a website for our high school stream, The Mighty 4F, in that time when such social media networks as Facebook and Whatsapp that we take for granted hadn't yet been created. And he wrote for me a wonderful peer recommendation when I unsuccessfully applied for undergraduate admission at Dartmouth College in the United States. He mentioned in the recommendation of how I had volunteered during the 2006 August holiday when I was in Starehe Institute to teach piano at a remote Catholic parish in Mwingi District in the then Eastern Province of Kenya in that era of provincial administration.
Unfortunately, and I say unfortunately for a reason I will explain later, Munene dropped out of Starehe Institute in late 2006 and chose to fly for a gap-year intern-ship at the Armidale School in New South Wales, Australia. So he turned out to be the only Starehe Boys' school captain who never completed his one-year term during my years in the school. He was also the only student who never completed the diploma course in Information Technology in the Starehe Institute Class of '07.
Had Munene finished his one-year term as school captain of Starehe Boys', he would have been offered an opportunity to study a post-high diploma at Deerfield Academy, one of the best college-preparatory schools in the United States, from where I am sure he would have been accepted in such highly-esteemed universities as Yale, Harvard and Stanford. As to why he chose to drop out of Starehe Institute thus sacrificing an opportunity to study at Deerfield Academy is something I have been dying to understand.
I later on in 2010 inquired from him in a Facebook chat why he sacrificed an opportunity to study in the United States. He never disclosed to me the reason; he just told me it is true he lost something by not flying to Deerfield, but he also gained something by flying to the Armidale School. That sounded wise. No wonder he was nicknamed "Philosopher".
Of late, I have been thinking that Munene dropped out of Starehe Institute probably because he didn't want to get caught up, like a mosquito in a spider's web, in the negative politics that were brewing up in the school following the demise in 2005 of Dr. Geoffrey Griffin: Starehe's founding director. What else would you expect from such a wise man as Munene?
Anyway, I was heartsick when I over-heard from some reliable sources that Munene was dropping out of Starehe Institute back in late '06. I expressed my sorrow to my friend Theophilus Kamwaro who just replied, "Good people never last."
I have always had a feeling that had Munene completed his term as Starehe Boys' school captain, he would have organized for me an opportunity that opened up in 2007 for one Starehian to study a post-high school diploma at a college-preparatory academy in Cleveland, Ohio. That's why I have said it was unfortunate for him to drop out Starehe Institute.
By the way, after his gap-year days at the Armidale School in Australia, Munene flew to Great Britain to pursue a BSc. degree in Business Information Systems at the University of East London. He graduated in 2011 with first class honours. And he now resides in Great Britain but sometimes he comes back to Kenya for a visit like he did recently to familiarize his English wife with his roots. I hope, just like I think Dr. Griffin is hoping as he reposes now in heaven, that Munene will one day permanently resettle back in Kenya to advance the course of his Motherland through entrepreneurship, if not political leadership. So help him God.
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People Need The Lord
As you might already know if you have read the "about_me" page of this lovely blog of mine, I liked attending church at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi during my first year at JKUAT in 2007 after I wandered into the church in April that year as I was looking for a church where I could assist in piano-playing while preparing to matriculate at the university. I especially came to love being part of the church's 9.30am English Service Choir, with which I sang tenor and played the organ, because of its spiritually enriching songs and its buddy-buddy monthly fellowships.
So much did I love being part of it that I narrated in the essays I wrote to the top American colleges I applied for admission that year of how a devoted choir member of All Saints Cathedral I was. I meant what every word I said in the essays which I must have thought would improve my chances of getting accepted into those top colleges because they admit students who excel not only in academics but also in extra-curricular activities.
You see, before matriculating at JKUAT in 2007, I had applied to four top American Colleges the previous year but was rejected by all of them. But being the ambitious young man that I was, I still fervently desired to fly to America, so I decided to re-apply in 2007.
For many days, I attended the church with high hopes of eventually flying to America for undergraduate studies at one of the top colleges I applied for admission which I imagined to be of the same high standards as All Saints Cathedral. I would at times gaze at the majestically vaulted main sanctuary of the cathedral (see photo above) and visualize myself doing the same at Harvard. Of the four colleges I applied in that round, Harvard was my first choice.
But it was not only my desire to study in the United States that glued me to the cathedral because, as I have said, I also loved being part of the church's 9.30am English Service Choir because of its spiritually enriching songs.
Yes, I did learn quite a number of hymns which deepened my faith in God. Among the hymns I learnt were: Have You Been to Jesus for the Cleansing Power?, Jesus Stand Among Us, Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us, Father Hear the Prayers We Offer, Be Still and Know that I am Lord, and my all time favourite Every Day They Pass Me By.
Of that last hymn I have mentioned in the paragraph above, I know you might be asking, "Who are these people who pass you by?" Well, let me just quote the first verse of the hymn:
I loved that first verse of the hymn so much so that I found myself singing it out aloud to myself. But little did I know back then that God would test me by deed whether I could live by what it said. You know why?
Everyday they pass me by,
I can see it in their eyes,
Empty people filled with care,
Headed who knows where?
On they go through private pain,
Living fear to fear,
Laughter hides their silent cries,
Only Jesus hears,
People need the Lord,
At the end of broken dreams,
He's the open door,
When will we realize,
People need the Lord?
Well, I was rejected by all the top American colleges. Then I ignominiously dropped out of JKUAT and stopped attending church which led me to be forcefully admitted to hospital.
By the time I was getting discharged from JKUAT hospital in late 2008, I had grown fearful, hopeless and overweight which led me to feel withdrawn. I tried to resume attending church at All Saints Cathedral but I found myself feeling so alienated and demotivated that I began to miss the days when I was full of high hopes. And then I would pity myself and wonder what on earth had happened to me.
My mother coaxed me to continue attending church at All Saints Cathedral by giving me bus fare to Nairobi but I would at times instead go sleep at Uhuru Park next to the cathedral where I was on one Sunday incarcerated for almost an hour for urinating on a fence. Eventually, I gave up attending church and for several years, I didn't sing or play the piano.
I have now sprang back into good shape thanks to the Lord my dear God. He has guided me back to the path of eternal peace with His amazing grace. And all I can say now is that people need the Lord at the end of broken dreams. He's the open door for shizzle.
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Bear with me, if you will, as I recount on yet another wonderful experience I had at Starehe Boys' Centre. I am just developing a hobby of reflecting on my past days, the heart-warming as well as the buttock-clenching ones, with the aim of either gleaning valuable lessons or enjoying my life again. And that hobby, which I am finding more refreshing than watching a wacky movie, is inspiring me to live an honourable life while still a youth so that I can get to enjoy it again when I grow old through beautiful memories.
I joined the Starehe Boys' Survival Club in my first term in Form 1 back in 2002 after magically passing an interview conducted by commandos - as the club leaders were called. And with time, I came to enjoy the camps and hikes we had in the club. Well, I didn't enjoy the hikes because they involved a lot of trekking through hilly countrysides but the camps, during which some commandos wore stetson hats that made them look like American cowboys, were quite another thing in that I enjoyed them especially the night camp-fires around which we would sing funny ditties while making fun of commandos who were selected in Form 3.
Like one Survivor teased a commando on one of those camp-fire chants by saying, "You see the grandmother of Commando 'X' - she grew thin and thinner and thinner and thinner and thinner until she disappeared!"
So much did I come to enjoy being part of Survival Club that at one time, I wanted to be a commando in the club. I however gave up on the ambition when I realized I couldn't withstand joining the Starehe Boys' Fire-fighting Squad (see photo above) which Survival Club commandos were expected to join. But with all the confusion and timidity that Starehians saw in me, I doubt whether I would have been selected a commando anyway.
I therefore left the club in Form 2 but after having gleaned the following leadership lessons which I hope to apply in my future family of which I will be the head, God willing:
- Rise early
- Be physically fit
- Ensure everybody in the family has a meal before sitting down to eat
- Create some time for family fun in which everyone is free to tease each other
- Keep disagreements with wife and bedroom affairs out of notice by children
Later on in 2012, I became interested in memorizing the values and mission statements of Survival Club as they may have been outlined by the club founder in 1989. So I visited Starehe Boys' only to find that the club had been displaced from the cottage we used as headquarters in our days to a small room partitioned in an old classroom.
With that kind of change, I sensed the club had lost its glitz and glamour. I informed Ken Ogutu, one of the commandos in '02, about the change but he didn't seem surprised. He just told me they used to refer to the cottage we used as Survival Club headquarters as the Bush Embassy. I found that Ogutu's remark amusing because it implies that if you wanted to go to the bush, you first had to get a visa from the Survival Club headquarters.
And by the way Ken Ogutu, who I have approached to be my legal advisor, went on to study law at the university and was accepted at the renowned Harvard Law School for a post-graduate course. My friend, that's the end of my story, and I have had a nice time telling it. Thanks for bearing with me.