This is a tribute to a friend, educationist-turned-journalist-turned-communication expert Kihumba Kamotho, who died a fortnight ago. We went back to the late 1990s, barely a month after I had been appointed chief executive officer of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), when I received in my office about a dozen top Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) officials.
They were led by the chairman, the late John Msambai Katumanga, who was intelligent balanced and composed in presenting issues. Then there was the secretary-general, the late Ambrose Adeya Adongo, a brilliant, courageous and boisterous orator with long experience in trade unionism locally and internationally.
To back them up was the oldest member of the team, the late Peter Lubale wa Lubelala, he of the elephantine memory and humour to boot; and Mr Paul Nyambala, who was stealthy in searching for vital background information.
Though the meeting was cordial, it was not lost to me that they had come to size me up and gauge my thinking on policy changes that I might be contemplating at TSC. Commutatively, the Knut brigade had about 200 years teaching and trade union experience. I recalled my lecturer in educational management, Mr Erick Hoyle, emphasising that trade unionists in education were adept at using rhetoric and tactics to win public opinion. I decided to set up a public relations department and a research unit.
Project our image
I immediately head-hunted Mr Patrick Birgen, an accomplished author of numerous English school books. Then one teacher, Mr Peter Kurgat, who used to write articles critical of some sections of the Rift Valley leadership, literally fell on my lap. I later realised that I needed someone from the print media with a teaching background who had a rapport with editors to project our image objectively.
The candidates were Mr David Aduda and Mr Kariuki Waihenya of the Daily Nation and Mr Kihumba Kamotho, Mr Ken Ramani, Mr Athanas Tuiyot, Mr Ken Bosire and Mr Waithaka Waihenya of the Standard. I eventually settled on Mr Kamotho.
I was deployed elsewhere. Mr Kamotho took over at the department, later renamed Communications Department. In the style of Mr Nyambala, he immersed himself in work. He would, hours on end, search for the missing link to crucial policy statements.
The magazine, Teachers Image, was launched. Its special issue, released in 2018 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the TSC, bears testimony to Mr Kamotho’s work. Besides being the editor, he also wrote some of the articles in it. It is a masterpiece.
The four CEOs that Mr Kamotho worked with loved and consulted him. At his demise aged 56, he would provide solid advice based on experience as a teacher, journalist and a communication expert. Those of us who knew him miss him but the TSC will miss him more. Fare thee well, Mr Kamotho.
Mr Sogomo is a former Secretary of TSC. [email protected] @BSogomo