A Model of Servant Leadership
A True Story
on May 11, 2017
How can I forget Philosopher David Munene? He was a high school classmate of mine at Starehe Boys' Centre. My classmates nicknamed Philosopher because of his philosophical remarks. He was first appointed a sub-prefect sometime in 2003 when we were in Form 2. And owing to the aura of confidence that he exuded, he rose through the ranks to become 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 during one school assembly in 2005, 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.
As our high school years drew to a close on November 2005, Munene and I were among the students interviewed for a job by a certain Mr. Njoroge. 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.
As for 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 since it involved doing such menial tasks as cleaning his office. So Munene was wise to decline the job offer.
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 struck 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 in Swahili 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 time as a red-lion 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 glowing 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 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 internship at an elite school in Australia called the Armidale School. So he turned out to be the only Starehe Boys' school captain who never completed his one-year term during my time 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' Centre, 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.
Later on in 2010, I 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, back in late 2006, I was heartsick when I overheard from some reliable sources that Munene was dropping out of Starehe Institute back. 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 pursue 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 he sometimes 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
A True Story
on Apr 17, 2017
When I left Starehe Boys' Centre in April 2007 and just before I matriculated at the university in JKUAT, I looked for a church where I could assist in piano-playing. Having been brought up as a Roman Catholic, I went to two Catholic churches but they didn't click with me. Then I wandered into All Saints' Cathedral, an Anglican church in Nairobi. And wow! The warm reception I received in the cathedral hooked me immediately to the church. I especially came to love being part of the cathedral's 9.30am English Service Choir with which I sang tenor and played the organ.
So much did I love being part of the choir 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. And I must have thought that mentioning in the essays that I was part of a choir 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 during my first year at JKUAT.
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. Imagining the colleges 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. I aso loved being part of the church's 9.30am English Service Choir because of its spiritually enriching songs and its buddy-buddy monthly fellowships.
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, whose first verse goes as follows:
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 whether I could live by what the hymn said: that people need the Lord at the end of broken dreams.
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, my dreams of schooling in America failed when I was rejected by all the top American colleges I applied for admission in 2007. Then I started skipping classes at JKUAT when I reported for my second year in 2008. What's worse, I stopped attending church services at All Saints' Cathedral. My change in behavior 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 a recreational park 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.