Prof. Ngugi: Rethinking CBC, academic philanthropy and stakeholder reinvention

Professor David Ngugi, shares a piece of cake with his grandchildren on his 80th Birthday celebration. PHOTO/Courtesy.
Professor David Ngugi, shares a piece of cake with his grandchildren on his 80th Birthday celebration. PHOTO/Courtesy.
  • Cracking CBC is an easy and affordable task.
  • Teachers and academic stakeholders should approach education creatively.
  • Patience is key as Kenyans await the fruit of the new curriculum.
  • Successful past generations embraced CBC-like mentorship.

Professor David Ngugi is a widely read, informed and accomplished scholar. 

Now aged 82, he first tasted the basics of education as a young child through his mother, Rahab Njeri, a former nursery school teacher, and like him, a product of Kenya’s earliest education program. 

Distilling education 

In his wisdom-filled words, the professor ably captures education’s past, present and future in Kenya and the world. 

“Education and its evolution,” he confidently states, “is the traditional brewing process where elders would painstakingly squeeze and distill sugarcane juice from well-formed and mature canes to prepare some ceremonial brew. 

“Like that sacred brew,” he continues, “education is sacred in a way for through it, individuals and communities are consistently liberated from ignorance, disease, poverty, negative worldviews and everything else that makes life unbearable.” 

Prof. Ngugi is a graduate of Alliance, Makerere, and United Kingdom’s Reading University and a professor of Agronomy. 

He insists that Kenyan leadership needs this wisdom to effectively navigate the way past the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) and all education challenges.

On approaching CBC

“All educational stakeholders need to wisely go about this task until they perfect the entire education system. There is neither reason nor room for failure because Kenya needs young, strong and learned people who can think for themselves and use their gifts, talents and strengths to shift the nation towards growth, enterprise and industrialization,” he advises.

Prof. Ngugi loves spending some of his time in retirement teaching and mentoring class eight students at the local Thirime Primary School.

According to him, CBC is not a hard nut to crack.

“If God, through the white man, gifted us with knowledge and the ability to harness and improve our environment, we can safely argue that programs like the CBC are a challenge that we can easily surmount, almost sixty years after our independence,” he opines. 

All stakeholders must take time, grasp its content, contextualize and improvise it, even as opportunities present themselves in the learning institutions. 

After one of his many volunteer teaching and mentorship lessons, Professor Ngugi (far left) with some of the Thirime primary school standard eight students. PHOTO/Courtesy.

“Because the CBC is in its early stages,” observes Prof. Ngugi, “teachers would do the students and themselves great good by undertaking to break down and serve knowledge to the young mind which is excited to learn.” 

Though currently oscillating, our ambitious CBC education will eventually settle at its proper spot to the joy and satisfaction of all stakeholders.

Timely a curriculum

“The CBC concept and process is right on time, especially for a world where education and knowledge continue to evolve,” he says.

Today’s teachers need to adjust their thinking and attitude to accommodate the learners, improvising on the available materials. 

In the CBC system, just like it was with earlier education curricula, educators have become more of mentors who need to reinvent old concepts to reach their goals. 

CBC, changing generations

Prof. Ngugi says real education should help everyone see the opportunities that surround them in learning institutions, homes and other places.

“Education, especially the CBC, has to produce a generation that sees things differently, to help renew nature for the sake of future generations,” he opines. 

By imparting knowledge to the youngsters, the teachers also contribute to nature preservation, abetting climate change. 

“Education, notes the professor, is one lifelong process, so we should not feel threatened by some new dynamics that will soon be mastered by the students, parents, and all stakeholders,” says Prof. Ngugi.  

Leadership and CBC

For the children’s sake, leaders talk to each other and agree on issues by humbly listening to each other.

That would lead to the right transitioning and inspire and cultivate the right atmosphere for the development of CBC.

“It is the success of leadership which ensures the success of new ideas and programs, especially during transitions. All new ventures are challenging, but the challenges can be shortened and managed through leveraging resources across all institutions,” he explains. 

Professor Ngugi (back row, far right), together with former president Uhuru Kenyatta and Kenyatta University Board of Management members after a meeting. PHOTO/Courtesy.

He says that all schools have diverse resources to leverage for maximum outputs systematically. 

Schools next to each other can, for a time, share libraries, laboratories, and swimming pools, even as they all plan and chart their future courses. 

“The CBC aims to produce a well-rounded product but like with all things, we have learned to expect positive results too soon without sticking to and honoring due processes,” says Prof. Ngugi. 

Early CBC-like mentorship

The basic education received in Kenya’s mission schools involved lessons on farming, teaching and apprenticeship, which went hand in hand with class work.

“There was time for apprenticeship in the farm, hospital and other places where the student was the mentee whose class lessons were complemented as he worked with his mentor,” he reminisces.

He says that the early students thrived in their careers because daily school mentorship molded character and vision, which became key virtues in all future pursuits.

Looking back, he now realizes the value of this induction, even for today’s education.

Craving white-collar and other revered jobs changed the focus from initial mentorship and apprenticeship. 

Still, many people out there made it through early CBC-like mentorship, just as many have made a name through white-collar and other scholarly pursuits. 

 “The CBC is necessary in order to shift our education and align it with the needs and ambitions of the whole person so that none is left behind in this era of globalization,” he asserts. 

He feels that retired scholars are not too tired to give back a little of their time or resources to help mold a better society and future for all. 

Evolving education

The early scholars referred to education and religion as light in those early days because they displaced their social darkness and ignorance and empowered many. 

“Nothing much has changed because today’s CBC child requires this light of education to become a better rounded-up product that can make it in life out there, no matter what academic grades they achieve,” Prof. Ngugi weighs.   

Walking the talk

Rahab Njeri Memorial and Educational Foundation is a philanthropic outreach by Professor Ngugi’s family and a few friends.

“Giving back to the community through the foundation is an idea that our children birthed,” he explains.

He adds that this is courtesy of the investment that society, religion and education have endowed upon them. The children created a forum where their parents and themselves could plow back to the less fortunate and lift their fortunes through education.

He acknowledges that Kenya needs much to emancipate herself from ignorance, poverty and other challenges.

Prof. Ngugi (right), his wife and children during his 80th Birthday celebration. PHOTO/Courtesy.

“We always need to see the larger picture, that we were empowered to empower others and it is a process that does not stop until one breaths their last,” Prof. Ngugi says. 

Discretion, defining the scholar 

Discretion has, in its natural simplicity, informed and rightly guided the long and diminutive journey of the easy-going professor’s education.

From the humble abodes of Thogoto village, he has beaten the trail of education through the Mambere institutions, Alliance, Makerere, Egerton, as a lecturer and Head of Crop Production Department and to Reading University, UK, for a Ph.D. in Agronomy and back to Kenya, to the Nairobi University as a full professor in the faculty of Agriculture.

Prof. Ngugi has also worked for other international organizations.

No wonder that, before giving me his contacts, Rev. Kevin Wathuti, the Parish Priest at Thogoto, intoned that: 

“Professor David Ngugi, whose contacts am giving you, is a simple and lively man whose insight we often miss because of his simple vibes and down-to-earth demeanor. Ensure you mine his knowledge and experience for our generation.”

YOU CAN ALSO READ: Reminiscing Thogoto, Kenya’s cradle of education

Prof. Ngugi is a lover of books whose appetite for knowledge knows no limits, spending most of his time consulting, sharing and utilizing his experience in various professional and other fora when needed.

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SN. Njuguna is a holistic Development and Communication activist. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, (Development Communication and Public Relations) from St. Paul's university. His contact:


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