Don fought tirelessly for fair use of Kenya’s education taxes

Kenya’s former education cabinet secretary Professor George Albert Omore Magoha, in his 71st year, was probably best known for tackling difficult issues such as the misappropriation of public funds in the ministry of education.

During his 12-year tenure as the cabinet secretary for education in Kenya in former president Uhuru Kenyatta’s cabinet, narratives of delayed salaries, lack of remittance of statutory deductions, unpaid bills, and cash flow problems were reduced, even though some higher learning institutions were still in debt. Magoha also worked hard to dismantle examination cheating habits in learning institutions.

Magoha joined Maseno University in Western Kenya in mid-January 2023 as a professor of surgery at the institution’s school of medicine. However, he died following a cardiac arrest on 24 January.

“A great leader, academician and surgeon, he fearlessly pursued what he believed in,” former Kenyatta University vice-chancellor Professor Olive Mugenda said on Twitter. Magoha was a medical doctor by profession who studied in Kenya and trained in four different countries.

Outlining his achievements in April 2022, Magoha said: “As public officers, we are duty bound to ensure that Kenyans know their hard-earned taxes and other revenues from the public kitty are utilised prudently. This can only be achieved if we embrace hands-on management of these resources.”

He was speaking when Kenya’s Certificate of Secondary Education, or KCSE, examination results were released on 24 April 2022. “This management approach has been instrumental in identifying lapses within the ministry where public funds have been misappropriated and measures to ensure that I effectively intervene have been deployed,” he said.

Other reforms he made in Kenyan higher academic institutions included reducing the cost of non-academic staff to avoid wastage, reassessing the qualifications of both tutors and students to emphasise good academic credentials and re-engineering the National Education Management Information System to weed out ghost students and schools.

Ezekiel Machogu, Magoha’s successor, described him as a consummate and dedicated public servant. In a statement to newsrooms, he said: “I have received the news of the untimely death of Professor George Magoha with great shock and deep sadness. Professor Magoha was not just my predecessor as cabinet secretary in the ministry of education. He was also a friend and colleague I have known for a long time, and to whom I looked up for advice.”

“As an administrator in the education sector, he will be remembered for his transformational leadership at the University of Nairobi where he served as vice-chancellor for 10 years, from 2005 to 2015, and at the Kenya National Examinations Council where he was chairperson from 2016 to 2019,” Machogu added.