President Obama was my classmate – Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi
Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi was born on January 1, 1952 at Kionyo village in Meru County.
And his accomplishment as a lawyer and politician is enviable.
The former Imenti South Member of Parliament (MP) is one of the most educated people in Kenya, having graduated cum laude in law school, locally and abroad. He is hailed as the ‘King of Meru’, having inherited the title from the late Jackson Angaine, who dominated Meru politics.
The former Justice Minister in the retired President Mwai Kibaki’s government is considered a hero in upper eastern.
A confidant of Kibaki since their days in the Democratic Party, he had unrestricted access to the seat of power, and his expertise in matters legal was an asset for the government.
But in spite of all the accomplishment for the man who wields immense clout in political affairs in Meru, very few are aware that his progression in the academic realm nearly became a cropper after he was sent away from Kairiene Primary School in Imenti South, where he was later to become MP.
Narrating his experience to mostly elderly former classmates and schoolmates of his alma mater, Kionyo Primary School, Murungi said he nearly dropped out of school because of his father, Danieli.
“I did not complete Class Four at Kairiene Primary School because I was expelled for a very simple reason,” he began his narrative to an attentive audience, among them Kibanga, his headmaster at Kionyo Primary School in 1967.
Luka, the headmaster at Kairiene Primary School, was not amused when Kiraitu’s father, who he repeatedly referred to by name, failed to report to school as he had instructed.
Instructively, Luka had acted as Danieli’s best man at his wedding, so it was stupefying when he sent away the young man from school.
“Luka summoned parents to a meeting in the school, but my father Danieli was too busy sawing timber in the forest, and delegated delegated the responsibility to my mother,” the senator told friends and education officials attending the launch of Kionyo Primary School Old Students Association, his brainchild.
Kiraitu says Luka was not amused when his mother turned up for the meeting.
“Where is Danieli? It is him I summoned, not you,” Luka demanded.
He would not entertain any explanation, even after he was informed Danieli was busy cutting wood in the forest.
“It is Danieli I want here,” the stubborn headmaster insisted.
So, Kiraitu went to the forest to relay Luka’s message. Danieli, who was busy sawing, did not see what the big deal was.
“What is wrong with Luka? We gave him the authority to rule our children, now does he also want to rule over adults?” Danieli asked.
Kiraitu went back to school without his father and Luka hit the roof.
“Where is Danieli? he asked Kiraitu.
“I told him my father had said he was only free to rule over children, not adults like him! Luka told me to get out of his school and go home, and to only come back with my father!”
Kiraitu’s father remained defiant and refused to go to school.
“So, I went home and helped in selling milk and herding for some time.”
With his education discontinued that ‘simply,’ young Kiraitu looked after cattle and sold milk by the day in the village. That is when Machuguma, also a timber dealer, intervened.
“I told him what had happened,” the senator reminisces.
Kibanga, the then headmaster at the nearby Kionyo Primary School gave him a chance in his school.
At this point, Kiraitu calls Kibanga, now in his 90s, to the front and thanks him profusely, and awards him a cash token for ‘soup.’
What followed was a magnificent run of impressive results, culminating in a place at Chuka High School in the neighbouring Tharaka Nithi County.
“‘I set a record there, and emerged number one. I then went to Alliance High School, then the University of Nairobi. After that, I proceeded to study law at the Kenya School of Law (KSL). I was also number one at KSL,” he states. At the University of Nairobi, he earned his bachelor and masters degrees in law.
Then he was off to Harvard Law School, where he did very well.
“US President Obama was my classmate. I did very well, and the rest is history,” he says.
“I came back, you elected me as MP and now senator. I want to thank you for all the support,” Kiraitu said.
The senator says the aim of the old students’ association is to raise the standards of education in Imenti South and the whole county.
“Last year in KCPE, Meru was number 33 out of 47 counties. Are you happy with that? Why were we almost last? The last school in Kenya was from Meru – I don’t want to mention its name. We are very embarrassed,” Kiraitu said, and added that professionals from the region will now go back to their former schools and mentor children.
“We met in Nairobi and decided to intervene to raise academic performance in Meru schools. We should be number one, at worst three,” he said.