Thursday, September 28, 2023

Untold story of Kenyan man who was first student to join Alliance High

Alliance High School is one of the oldest and most prestigious schools in Kenya, known for producing some of the country’s finest leaders and scholars.

Founded in 1926, the Alliance has a rich history of providing quality education to students from all walks of life.

In this article, we explore the life of James Muigai, a former student of Alliance High School, and his journey from humble beginnings to becoming a top civil servant in independent Kenya.

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James Muigai was born into a family of four brothers in Kiambu, Kenya. His elder brother, Kung’u, died in infancy, leaving Kamau wa Muigai, the second-born, and James as the only surviving siblings.

Their father, Muigai, passed away, and according to Kikuyu customs, their mother, Wambui, was inherited by Muigai’s brother, Ngengi. Together, Ngengi and Wambui had a son named Muigai, who later changed his name to Jomo Kenyatta.

Joining Alliance High School

After Wambui’s death, James was taken in by his elder brother, Kamau wa Muigai, who had converted to Christianity and changed his name to Johnstone.

Johnstone took James to be baptised and gave him the name James. Later on, when Alliance High School opened its doors, Johnstone enrolled James as the first student, and he was entered into the register as James Muigai s/o Johnstone.

The school was situated in the middle of thick bushes, and the founding headmaster, G.A. Grieve, had to cut a two-kilometre path through the bush to enable students to find their way to the school.

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The school’s main focus was on discipline rather than academic excellence, and students were taught the importance of personal hygiene and dressing for the occasion. James excelled in his studies and later became a primary school teacher.

Professional Career

After graduating from Alliance High School, James Muigai went on to become a primary school teacher and rose through the ranks to become an Inspector of Schools.

He was known as “Mr. Gitoki” (Mr. Stockings) due to his strict adherence to wearing shorts and long stockings, which was the uniform for teachers and African school inspectors during that time.

During his career as an Inspector of Schools, James Muigai was known for his strict adherence to discipline and high standards.

He believed that academic excellence was only useful if students were first and foremost, orderly people who knew what best to do, how to do it, and when to do it. He continued to live by these values throughout his life.

In a previous 2018 interview with Nation, James Muigai was asked whether his big brother, President Jomo Kenyatta, sought favours from him after independence.

In response, he seemed a bit offended and questioned, “What for?” Muigai went on to clarify that when his brother was released from colonial detention, he himself was already a high-ranking civil servant with a decent income. He even lent his brother money to purchase his first set of suits just before he assumed the presidency.

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James Muigai believed that the environment in independent Kenya was conducive to allow ordinary people to invest without cutting shortcuts.

He could go to a bank and take a loan to buy a coffee farm and use proceeds from the same farm to service the loan. He did not need favours from his brother, who had become the President of the country.

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