Pioneer Kenyan teacher, passes away in New York

Siddiq Lone, who at the Duke of Gloucester School taught most of the pre-independence generation of Asian students who subsequently became the thinkers, professionals and business leaders of the new Kenya, died on Christmas Day in New York following a heart attack. He was born in Moshi, Tanzania 93 years ago. His wife of 71 years, and a fellow teacher, Saffia Lone, had died a few months earlier.

Mr. Lone was the father of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s adviser Salim Lone, and of Jamil, Naeem, Ghazala, Wasim and Haleem Lone. All his living children, as well as their wives, 7 grandchildren and a great granddaughter were at his bedside at the time of his death, many of them travelling across continents to be with him. A man of progressive political and social views, he was deeply committed to freedom and complete equality and was horrified by the treatment of Kenyans that he witnessed even before the Emergency was declared.

In the late 1940s and 1950s he attended numerous political rallies where he was influenced in particular by powerful Asian orators advocating equality. He also believed in the importance of public service, and indeed all six of his children initially became teachers. Two eventually left public service for the business world, where they continued to espouse public service principles. Siddiq Lone was also a man of immense learning.

His knowledge of history was buttressed in his university years by his being an eye witness to inspirational anti-colonial moments in India, where he studied and obtained his BA in Srinigar, Kashmir. The most memorable of these moments was when he travelled to Simla, India, for the decisive interparties conference where he heard Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah address a vast rally.

For a long time he wished India had not been divided. With a conscious desire to impart knowledge to the young, Siddiq Lone became a teacher in 1947 at the Duke of Gloucester School, now Jamhuri High School. He retired in 1975, when he was Deputy Headmaster at Highway Secondary School.
His unfailing courtesy and humility, plus genuine concern for his students’ welfare, endeared him to virtually everyone who came across him. He was also renowned for his love and knowledge of Urdu poetry, his favourites being Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Saahir Ludhianvi, both strong democratic socialists.

The one thing he was proud of was his remarkable health, which saw him hospitalized only once until his 92nd birthday. He did not know what a headache was as he had never suffered one! He said his health derived from his discipline in walking for an hour daily from his early youth until he was 91, and for never straying from his modest-sized meals. An ardent athlete in many sports, he was the Captain of the Sir Ali Muslim Club Football Second XI, which astonishingly won a major national tournament, the Nazareth Cup, by defeating the Club’s First XI in the final.

Mr. Lone’s grandfather and father, both engine drivers, immigrated to East Africa in the early 1900s from Punjab. When his son Salim was forced into exile in 1982, Mr. Lone moved to London. When Salim  returned to Kenya in 2004, his parents came back as well. In 2009 they travelled to London for medical treatment needed by Mrs. Lone. She died earlier this year and Mr. Lone then moved to New York with his son Jamil.

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