Part 3: Servant Leadership - Reflections of a Young Man™

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Part 3: Servant Leadership

On the right side in this photo is David Munene, the encouraging '06 school captain of Starehe Boys' Centre who I shall talk about today in the story of mine below, posing with my general Moses Aran apparently after they were awarded trophies.

I promised yesterday to tell you of the other school captain who never got corrupted by power from my viewpoint during my years at Starehe Boys' Centre. Here I am and the school captain in mind, who you already know if you have read the caption of the photo above, was none other than Philosopher David Munene. He served as 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 that resembled those of the legendary writer Waldo Emerson. He was first appointed a red-lion, as the three head-honchos of the Starehe prefectorial force were called, sometimes 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 both been 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: that friendly and easy-going school captain I mentioned yesterday in my previous story in this lovely website of mine. 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. 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 an August holiday when I was in Starehe Institute to teach piano in 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 that 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 disappointment to my friend Theophilas 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 B.Sc. 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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Part 2: Servant Leadership

What a beautiful place Starehe Boys' Centre has grown up to be! I have been inspired to continue writing about this great school. So read the story of mine below and stay tuned for more.

As I pointed out in my previous story in this website, I observed the corrupting nature of power during my days at Starehe Boys' Centre. Like some captains would use their power to smuggle books from the school library and overstay with them as if they were the only ones in need of the books. Others would harass innocent "commoners" like me just to impress their superiors they were effective leaders. Others would use school resources entrusted to them like house party funds for personal use. Others would use their studies to womanise females. No wonder some of them used to doze in class in the afternoon faster than you can say "chapo ndazi" ten times.

But there were two school captains during my days at Starehe who ascended to the top of students' leadership without getting corrupted by power, at least from the way I observed them. Allow me to mention one today and the other in my next story tomorrow, God-willing.

The first was one Gilbert Kimani who was appointed to be the school captain of Starehe Boys' in 2002 when I was a rabble, as Starehians used to call first formers. Glibert was a friendly and easy-going guy who I had at first doubted his ability to be the school captain of such a great school as Starehe because I had grown up believing that leadership positions were best left to tall, arrogant and muscular blokes. But coming to think of it, Gilbert turned out to be an efficient leader who completed his one year term as was expected of him.

I shall always remember Gilbert for saving me from the wrath of a prefect who I happened to break his cup while running for something in the dining hall like a headless chicken when I was in Form 1. Well, I just recall faintly going to express my grievances to Gilbert who listened to me sympathetically. I don't know if he took any action against the prefect. All I remember is that the prefect never harassed me after I reported the case to Gilbert.

Much later on in late 2015 when I was teaching piano at Wynton House of Music in Nairobi, I spotted Gilbert walking out of the up-scale Yaya Centre. I stopped him and introduced myself. He couldn't remember me but when I told him that I am Thuita J. Maina, he replied, "That name sounds familiar." He must have heard about me through the Old Starehian Society network where I have become an object worthy of admiration and sometimes a lightning rod for posting too many stories in the society's Facebook group.

As I exchanged pleasantries with Gilbert that day at Yaya Centre, he apprised me that after he left Starehe, he flew to Canada where he had been residing but was then in 2015 returning to Kenya to advance the course of his Motherland as Dr. Griffin, the founder of Starehe Boys', would have expected of him. What a wise move!

Gilbert promised to visit me at the school where I was teaching piano but I want to apprise him if he is reading this story of mine that I have long since left Wynton House of Music. I am now chilling at my father's home in Kiserian where I am honing my talents while praying for breakthroughs like winning a lucrative advertising contract in this lovely website of mine. So the much Gilbert can do now is connect me to a business with an international brand to advertise here.


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Part 1: Servant Leadership

This is the 2013 Starehe Boys' prefectorial force team of captains of which I shall talk about in the story of mine below. I have extracted the photo from Starehe Boys' website. Copyright © all rights reserved worldwide.

The architects of the American Revolution in the 18th Century - that brilliant combo of such great minds as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin - must have understood the corrupting nature of power when they designed the constitution of the United States, the world's first democracy. I can attest from my observations in my time at Starehe Boys' Centre that indeed power corrupts, and as political scientist David Easton put it, "absolute power corrupts absolutely". Please allow me to give an example.

There was this house-mate of mine at Starehe who was just a year ahead of me. Let me call him Mpasua Msonobari for the time being. He used to be kind to me in his year as a second former as when he borrowed from me a colourful prospectus of the Kenya School of Flying. But the fellow morphed into a bully when he was promoted to the prefectorial force.

Like we were moving out of the assembly hall one evening when I chickened out by skipping a row so that I could get out of the hall faster. Mpasua Msonobari caught me in my mischief, took down my particulars and decided to crucify me for a punishment we called "contracts" that was all about cleaning the toilets for twenty minutes or so. Humbled as a rat cornered by a cat, I pleaded with Mpasua Msonobari to forgive me for my mischief but my pleas turned deaf to his ears.

I still don't understand why Mpasua Msonobari couldn't forgive me when I pleaded for mercy. He defied the laws of natural justice. Didn't Jesus Christ advise Christians to forgive others just like our heavenly father is forgiving? And Mpasua Msonobari was not an atheist; he was a Christian.

But I think Mpasua Msonobari's motive for crucifying me for "contracts" was to show off to his superiors that he was a performing prefect so that he could get promoted to the higher echelons of leadership in the prefectorial force. He succeeded in his show-offs because he was eventually promoted in 2004 to be a red-lion as the Starehe's top three head-honchos of the prefectorial force were called.

And Mpasua Msonobari persisted with his arrogance towards me in his time as a red-lion. Like I once went to the red-lions study to borrow rubber bands for holding my socks up only for him to start interrogating me as if I were a captured criminal. I can't recall what he exactly said to me but it had something to do with me not dressing like a Form 3 student at Starehe Boys' Centre. Remember this Mpasua Msonobari was the same character who used to be kind to me before he was promoted to be a prefect. Indeed power corrupts, and as for Mpasua Msonobari, absolute power corrupted him absolutely.

By the way, Mpasua Msonobari was awarded a scholarship to study a post-high school diploma in Switzerland together with George Waithaka, the brilliant house-mate of mine I mentioned in my previous story in this website. As for Mpasua Msonobari, he was accepted at Stanford University - the reputable institution that has been the birthplace of such ground-breaking scientific marvels as gene splicing and global positioning systems.

Mpasua Msonobari is now running for a political seat in his home-area in Nairobi of which I wish him well especially for him having typed an uplifting comment in one of my Facebook posts a few years back. If you happen to know who I am referring to as Mpasua Msonobari, please tell him not to get corrupted by power when he clinches a political seat like he did when he was promoted to the Starehe prefectorial force. He should be kind, humorous, forgiving and understanding. That's what I call servant leadership.


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