Dr. Matiang’i, prefects’ system is an absurdity: If we can make people believe absurdities, we can make them commit atrocities.

Dr. Fred Matiang’i, it’s me.  Again….and yes, I never get tired. I care too much about education and the youth to get off your grill, like the young ones would say!

I warned you last year that you had fixed a leak in a house of a thousand leaks. Another leak has just burst. It has the Country shocked at the atrocity, mindlessness and impunity of Prefects at Alliance high School.

I am not.

I actually believe that there are other things that the Prefects at Alliance High and other Schools have been doing to their fellow students that are unmentionable and unprintable. I have heard and seen worse. Ever since my days in High School, I have been vehemently opposed to the prefecture system. Being  young then, I just had a gut-intuitive feeling that there was something wrong with it. I did not know what. I did not have enough experiential and intellectual awareness to know what was wrong. After 37 years in School, 27 of those as a student and several hundred history, literature and cultural theory readings later, I now know what is wrong with the prefecture system and I can tell you emphatically that it is an absurdity and should be abolished.


In a Country governed by democratic principles and procedures, a Country that has been independent for 54 years and a Country with a new progressive Constitution, the prefecture system is an absurd relic of our colonial past and should have been abolished a long time ago. That this absurdity has persisted this long is a big failure of education reform and we should not be surprised at the atrocities in Alliance and other Schools perpetrated by Prefects. Like they say, it you can make people believe absurdities, you can make them commit atrocities.

The absurdity of the prefecture system has its origin in the homeguard system invented by the British Colonialists to contain and illegitimately rule over the African population. When the Colonialists stole our land and ruled us illegitimately, they needed an effective system to “manage natives” and effectively govern a disenfranchised and angry population that probably outnumbered them 10,000-1. They devised a most undemocratic, wicked and absurd method that only the British could – a system of control manned by local collaborators and traitors who worshiped the British colonial masters. They were called homeguards and chiefs.

The colonialists picked “vetted” loyalists and gave them kaptula, akalas and some silly privileges and told them they were closer to the mzungu than their black brothers and sisters. They then told them that they were the eyes of the mzungu among their people. They donated some of the illegitimate power they themselves had to these bands of African degenerates and told them to ensure there were no “kubaff” elements among their brothers and sisters who were “stirring trouble” for the mzungu. They then released those mongrels onto the people. I need not remind you that these colonial homeguards and chiefs were some of the most despicable beings this country has ever seen. They were shockingly cruel, incorrigibly corrupt, nauseatingly loyal to the colonial masters and utterly contemptuous of anyone who did not recognize their power.

Sadly, this is the system and structure of governance that was introduced in schools to enforce total control on the native student populations. In fact, Prefects would often be the sons and daughters of homeguards and chiefs. They had learnt well from their fathers. The system works exactly like I have described above. Teachers would “select” the most “royal, well-mannered, and complacent” students who do not question authority. They would give them a different tie and blazer and some other stupid privileges and tell them they were now closer to the teachers than their fellow students. They would be told that they are the eyes of the administration among the students. They are supposed to ensure that no  “kubaff” elements among the students are “stirring trouble” for the administration. They are given illegitimate powers over their peers, and as absurd as it seems, they believe it. Then the brainwashed mongrels are released upon the students. And the result is what we saw at Alliance.

The transformation of normal, regular,  nice boy and girls  into heartless and corrupt beasts as soon as they are appointed as Prefects is shocking.  The result is that Prefects’ bodies are shockingly cruel, incorrigibly corrupt, nauseatingly loyal to the school administration and utterly contemptuous of anyone who does not recognize their power. These are the illegitimate machines of control that schools have used over the last 54 years to control students. I can understand how the system survived after independence. This is explained by the fact that it is the sons of loyalist homeguards and colonial chiefs who took over the reins of independence after the “exit” of their colonial benefactors.

However, the Country fought against the colonial anti-people structures and finally got a progressive pluralist Constitution in 2010. That should have been the death of all absurd colonial anti-people structures. Unfortunately, the prefecture system has survived all this time despite the call for democratic and legitimate students’ organization and leadership. Even in Schools that have “elected” Students Governments, they still feel the need to keep the prefecture-homeguard system in one form or another.

Dr.Matiang’i, the prefecture system is evil and absurd because it is a corruption of the very basic principles of democracy, leadership and natural justice.  No-one has the right to govern another one without that others consent – Period.   Subsequently,  everyone has a duty to disobey illegitimate power structures, unfair and inhuman rules and procedures.  In a democracy, the power to lead comes from the people and can never come from any other “authority”.  Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The absolute illegitimate power that is wielded by un-elected, un-deserving, corruptly privileged and entitled prefects over their peers is what the tragedy in Alliance High School is made off. And that is why disbanding the prefecture system in Alliance and replacing it with another one is not enough. The system is inherently corrupt and the new band of homeguards will become as cruel and incorrigible as their predecessors if not worse.

It does not end there. The prefecture system is partly the reason that even with the new Constitution, Kenya is still grappling with the issue of bad governance, lack of democracy and accountability. This is because most of our leaders – Presidents, MPs, Senators, Governors and need I add CS’s were actually Prefects. They were initiated into leadership through that absurd and corrupt system. They thus have internalized the relationship between leadership and corruption, cronyism, impunity, exploitation of the people and lawlessness.

We will never fix the problem of leadership until we stop producing home-guards in our schools who come out into the world to become the “leaders”. I couldn’t put this tragedy better than Gammzo the Standard Newspaper Cartoonist in his Saturday 4th March cartoon:

Dr. Matiang’i, do the Country and posterity a favor. Ensure that we start to produce leaders who are un-corrupted by the absurdities of the Prefecture system and who do not have a warped view of leadership and power.

Abolish the prefecture system in Schools. Now.

Replace it with mandatory democratically elected student’s governing bodies answerable to the students and who exist for the purposes of student’s organization, leadership, growth and welfare. If one wants to be a dorm governor or a games governor or a class governor or a school president or whatever leadership position, they should never be appointed by the school administration or any other authority. He/she should tell his/her peers why he/she wants to lead them. The peers should evaluate his/her proposals against any other that is equally interested. Competition of ideas is the lifeline and the purpose of democracy. If convinced, his/her peers will vote for him/her in democratic elections based on universal suffrage, and hold him/her accountable to the promises he/she made. Anything short of this is nonsense, an absurdity whose net effect would be to corrupt not just the individuals involved but the whole system of democratic leadership in the Country.  If you effect this single reform in Schools, we will start to see a marked improvement of the quality of leadership this country will start to have in the next 20-30 years.

I guarantee you that if you do this, none of all the others things you are doing to reform education would have a bigger legacy than this, and none would affect posterity and its leadership deeper, longer and more positively. If you had only one chance to do that one thing that will have the biggest impact in this country for the longest time, this must be it.

Caveat Emptor:  Do not listen when the Ministry mandarins, Principals, BoMs and other busybodies   tell you this is impossible. Remember that 85% of them were Prefects – please read homeguards. It is not only possible, it is the barest minimum that we can do to start institutionalizing the principles of democracy and people-accountable leadership that is lacking in this country.

The atrocities at Alliance High School are just a tip of the iceberg Bwana CS. It is the result of one of the most absurd and corrupted “leadership” systems ever devised by the ever so cynical and racist British Empire. The atrocities of the system then are well documented. Imported to the Schools for purposes of control, it has created the most absurd and corrupted prefecture system. The result is the atrocities at Alliance and those yet unspoken of elsewhere. If you can make people believe an absurdity, you can make them commit atrocities. Dr.Matiang’i stop this absurdity, fix another leak.

You will hear from me when the next leak bursts…

Yours Truly,

Prof. Michael Wainaina.

Facebook Comments


  1. you have a point Prof, that is why in my time i refused to be punished, i chose suspension than being subjected to caning, i refused with facts, i was called rude and one teacher had to suspend me from her lessons but when she gave exam i was the one leading in that same subject, at long last they came to agree with what i was saying, “Caning is not give a solution but dialogue”

  2. Your views are so spot on Prof because unknown to most people they are quite practical! I went to a high school where the students were in charge of electing their prefects. This process was so democratic and independent such that some of the so-called ‘kubaff’ elements would also be elected even if they were unpopular among teachers but popular among their peers. Within this system of things, the prefects had little correspondence with teachers but someway somehow they were really effective in maintaining order. Sometimes we as students would elect some elements that would let the power get into their heads and try to get into our nerves, but the majority would always win in such a scenario. Another interesting aspect of this system is that when a ‘suspicious’ character was elected as a leader, that sense of responsibility would most likely straighten him out. Furthermore, our prefects were undistinguished in any manner because the had no special privileges (they slept, ate, washed, played, and ‘suffered’ with the rest of us) save for a grey sweater they wore on some occasions. I hope Dr. Matiang’i gets your message and visits St. Mary’s NYERI for some benchmarking exercises. If this system is still operational, it will be of great help to the CS. I would also like to give honorable mentions to some of my favorite prefects in high school, who I believe would make great leaders in any position : Kenn Wainaina, Kamau Njūgūna, Kamwaro Eliud, Nattyprince Mozza Murekio, Kevin Kairu Gachari and very many other distinguished gentlemen who are engaging in constructive nation-building as certified democratic citizens

    • And I Still Wonder Why You Didn’t Get A Leadership Post Back Then My Brother Dee Philosopha, I Remember I Wasn’t At All Popular Among The Teachers At First And You Guys Elected Me By Force… It Was An Honor To School With You Guys

    • Nattyprince Mozza Murekio we never regretted electing you though, and you turned out to be a great Captain. Maybe we saw something in you that you didn’t because eventually you saw us through quite smoothly

    • That was the best system i have come across so far. When you have one of your own on a leadership position that doesn’t grant so much privilege to the holder of a position. It Minimizes unplaced competition and false sense of importance as well as ensures you work for the wellbeing of those who put you in that position.

      And thanks for your kind words Dee Philosopha. humbled

    • St. Mary’s Nyeri system was a good one. It created a sense of ownership- all of us felt that the school belonged to us and we wouldn’t want it to fail. Dee Philosopha I’m humbled that you believe we left a positive impact. Nattyprince was a great Captain… and Kevin Kairu was a great leader too.

  3. Professor I totally agree with you. May be I could share with you something similar I sent to DAILY NATION after the release of last years KCSE exam, which unfortunately was not published. (WHY DO WE NEED NATIONAL SCHOOLS
    The selection of candidates to join form 1 in national schools for 2017 is over and everyone is happy that CS Matiang’i has completed the exercise in record time.

    Now that the dust has settled, it is time to reflect and ask ourselves a critical question. Why do we need national schools in the first place? Why can’t the government equip all secondary schools equally to ensure all pupils access quality education from any part of the country?
    Do we have special colleges that train the teachers of Alliances , Mangus , Masenos etc? All these teachers attend the same colleges and universities with the ones teaching in Onjiko, Kanyariri and Nyakoiba.

    These national schools formerly known as government schools are a colonial relics based on the British aristocracy system whose object was to train up western-oriented political elite committed to the attitudes and ideologies of the colonial masters. Those who went to these government schools were considered as the best qualified to take up the best government jobs the colonies became independent. They were mainly sons and daughters of the colonial chief’s families and other collaborators.

    Most of the products of these schools have dominated the political landscape in Kenya for the last 53 years. They also form networks and cartels where they take up all the plum jobs in the public and private sector. Many of them have also been implicated in mega corruption and land grabbing scandals that have rocked the country over the years.

    Kenyans should demand the disbandment of these national schools together with the county ones to make way for implementation of an education system that gives every child an equal opportunity in life. The government should also equip all secondary schools equally so that every child can get the best education even in the remotest part of the country).

  4. I agree with some of your sentiments Professor. But think about this, I have been to schools where prefects are elected, the students elect those they are sure will favour them and be as corrupt as possible. They go against school rules with full knowledge of the prefects. It affects discipline in schools and the teachers have to work twice as hard to get the students to be half as disciplined. When I was a prefect at school, I was tough but very fair and understanding. I weighed situations before making decisions. I sometimes refused to do what the administration demanded because I knew it was wrong and tortorous to my fellow students but still ensured students found a way to get to the required standards of discipline required by the school. In my view, I was trying to find harmony or rather a balance between leadership and being a servant though I certainly wasn’t mature enough in age and experience to. I left school confident that my jurisdiction as a prefect was successful. The moral fabric of our society is already corrupt and that means even the high school students are doing what the bigwigs in the country are doing; being corrupt and immoral. I don’t know if there is a way to bridge the two to find a good blend of leadership in schools but certainly that would be my idea. Thank you.

    • My brothers, in my view, the administration needs help from the Students’ Body to run the school and if the ones they pick can’t be the link between the students and the teachers then the whole education system will be affected since I regard it as an important part of the whole system running. Institutions run on rules and regulations, whichever country you go to, and so I just think it’s more about teachers than it is with the students. Besides, the students rely more on teachers in school for everything than they do on their fellow students.

  5. Professor, last year between May and July there were very many strikes in our schools. Most of these strikes, do you know they were planned, and led by the elected students body?

    Elected students leaders are a disaster in our third world secondary school. Prefecture system works, provided it is controlled and any kind of bullying or harassment by those appointed.

    When the principals of secondary schools from Nairobi and kiambu met in Nakuru for a conference late last year, they were narrating how some of the elected ‘presidents’ were walking around with and ‘aide’ and as they (presidents) when addressing the assemblies these, ‘aide de camp’ would stand behind them the African way.

    They wanted even the teachers to address them as presidents, and there was a tag of war between the two.

    Where the administration and the school students leaders body are not walking together expect disaster.

  6. How can we get rid of prefects a system that is a direct replica to the national administration system? I believe Dcs, Dos,Chiefs and etc should have been abolished immediately we inaugurated the new constitution…but see, it still prevails!

  7. Professor I disagree………..start electing prefects and then rigging and bribery will take place and ensure that the students with the deepest pockets become prefects……….have you forgotten about Babu at University of Nairobi……………………? We are corrupt through and through………to clean up the schools, you have to start by doing something about the ethics and morals of our society………….

  8. I thought the idea of enforcing appointed prefects on students was over
    I was the first elected president in my high school
    It ran smoothly as I was a representative of student’s affairs ,
    But for a national school
    The narratives change from being purely democracy to a negotiated democracy system
    And from where I come
    It has hit the headlines for being a system of injustice
    You must have heard north eastern rhetorics in the news
    To sum it up
    The democracy died in less than two terms
    Nd it changed to clan X nd y
    Hence negotiated democracy was to be used

  9. I too was the first elected school captain. I felt responsible for the students under me. There were no priviledges whatsoever n I guess tht helped to maintain the balance in school. Hii story ya prefects I thought ws done over with in 2010?

  10. Prof, I beg to disagree with you. Prefects system is good and effective in supporting school administration especially where the teachers do not fail in their duties. The case of Alliance is one of the principal and teachers failing in their duties and imagining that prefects(students) can take it up.

    • Everything has its time. Maybe the time for prefects is over, but what system is take over from it? Has the possible substitute been tried or will it be a case of courting an angel we don’t Know? This reminds me of the clamour and rush to have a new constitution. Reason : the old constitution was colonial. Today every small failure in the government system is blamed on the new constitution. The prefect system maybe colonial but what is wrong with it? Prof, do we condemn it just because some few teachers have abrogated their duties. I would propose that some changes be effected to make move with the times.

  11. I totally agree with you prof. Matiang’i should listen to you on this. To transform the type of leadership this country needs 20 years to come this prefecture system should be scrapped from schools

  12. Democratically elected prefects will not instill integrity nor the requisite responsibilities, democracy have greatly failed both at the National and regional level to initiate sobriety in our leaders. I at time clinge at the prospect of having some of the current governors being the sole authorities in their counties, school authorities should play the major in determining who heads the students body.

  13. Oooh professor! Professor!…. You are so behind the news! Where have you been all this time? Me thought at the minimum professors were so abreast with policies & regulations in their areas of interest,let alone the NEWS! The MOE came up with what is called student councils that if you were aware members are a products & do all that you’ve said up there! So Mr behind the news prof? This already exist save for some untouchable principals who flaut policies with impunity!

  14. For the first time, Prof, I detect you as a propaganda mouthpiece. You chose to demonize the prefecture system by evoking our base emotions to reject it instead of stimulating our intellect to see the issue as it is. The problem is not the system but failed mentality. What you propose as the solution to this problem has been tried for the past three years. It has been characterized with students ganging up against the administration to elect crooks with dubious characters. Under the system you are proposing we have seen the highest number of schools burnt for unjustifiable reasons.

    We can’t justify the terror. However, your tone is dishonest to the prefecture system. I would propose that whatever the system, let every player be accountable for his or her actions in a manner that upholds the spirit of our constitution.

  15. Hate to admit it, but yes. You are mostly right on this one.
    Even the Students’ council has gone back to be the ‘homeguard’ structure, and the neocolonial teacher is fueling the train into imminent crash.
    I am just not sure that having teachers stand aside as students do their thing will be the solution.
    The school is mirroring the society. We must fix every other institution as well.

    • What is needed is a paradigm shift from the “homeguard” mentality for all involved. It does not mean that the teachers have no role. In fact I see a bigger role for them in a truly democratic and accountable process than in the “prefecture” system. A shift will never happen without a complete buy-in and facilitation from the teachers. They must believe that an accountable and democratic leadership is possible and put up the support structures that are needed to make it both. Without this, the new system will be as ineffective as the old one.

  16. proff i disagree with you..if u want to see schools reduced to ashes abolish prefecture system..High school students are still kids n as much as we would like to give them freedom to elect their leaders we must have another way of containing them..University case when you go for a rampage anti-riots police are thea hitting u really hard..soo do u want to tell us it will be possible to contain this kids

    • This is the mentality that holds back progress. Please read this post by a contributor on this article. You are very wrong.

      Dee Philosopha Your views are so spot on Prof because unknown to most people they are quite practical! I went to a high school where the students were in charge of electing their prefects. This process was so democratic and independent such that some of the so-called ‘kubaff’ elements would also be elected even if they were unpopular among teachers but popular among their peers. Within this system of things, the prefects had little correspondence with teachers but someway somehow they were really effective in maintaining order. Sometimes we as students would elect some elements that would let the power get into their heads and try to get into our nerves, but the majority would always win in such a scenario. Another interesting aspect of this system is that when a ‘suspicious’ character was elected as a leader, that sense of responsibility would most likely straighten him out. Furthermore, our prefects were undistinguished in any manner because the had no special privileges (they slept, ate, washed, played, and ‘suffered’ with the rest of us) save for a grey sweater they wore on some occasions. I hope Dr. Matiang’i gets your message and visits St. Mary’s NYERI for some benchmarking exercises. If this system is still operational, it will be of great help to the CS. I would also like to give honorable mentions to some of my favorite prefects in high school, who I believe would make great leaders in any position : Kenn Wainaina, Kamau Njūgūna, Kamwaro Eliud, Nattyprince Mozza Murekio, Kevin Kairu Gachari and very many other distinguished gentlemen who are engaging in constructive nation-building as certified democratic citizens

  17. Raila can only trust that IEBC will conduct free and fair elections for him to win only if it is composed of: 1. Chairman – Raila Amolo Odinga 2.CEO – Idah Odinga 3. Commissioners – Oburu Odinga, Ruth Odinga, Rosemary Odinga, Winnie Odinga and Raila Jr.

  18. are you really aproffessor?? Iquestioned your professorship then. did you want matiangi to go all over the schools to elect prefects? even if the system is not good will your prefferred system bring in new students to school as prefects or they will still pick from the existing ones? Dnt expose your fake mind by use of abig tittle eti professor!

    • Omogambi Nyachae It is very unfortunate when your basis of response is contempt and self-aggrandizement. I need not remind you that you were my student who had posted on facebook an insulting remark questioning the qualifications of your teacher. This is the same narrative you are shamelessly pushing here. I would wish to meet you and you tell me those things on my face. I have met people who are disrespectful to their teachers but my friend you are in a class of your own.

      You gave statistics. I questioned them. You said you have conducted research. I have asked you to give us the reference of the publication where your research was published. You have none. Now you are talking of the school you were in. I don’t know as a student or as a teacher. Is that school 95% of all schools? Let us be mature in our arguments. I would expect you to know or to do better. But when you are motivated by contempt for whatever reason, this is the way you reason. Without any data or facts, yet quoting non-existent “research”.

      There were Prefects in Alliance!! What they did is in the public domain. That is the basis of my article. I just do not know what you are going on and on about. In any case, the fact of their being elected does not mean that the old structure has been abolished. I have seen places where students are elected but they still function within the old paradigm. I have said that it is not the factor of being elected. It is the system as it is constructed.

    • Professor Michael Wainaina – PhD You speak with so much authority on the subject yet you’re no expert on it or have any relevant research on the subject to back you up. When you purport that eliminating the prefecture system will automatically end the mess in schools, what do you base that argument on? The elections of student leadership has been ongoing for over a decade now, have you carried a comparative study to compare the prefecture system vs the pro-student-democratic system?

    • The prefecture system is being phased out. Am not quite sure about Alliance. However in most schools student leaders are democratically elected. We even carried out an election in our school recently.

  19. I DONT THINK WE NEED PREFECTS AT ALL. Look at what happens in Strathmore. Each boy is a prefect of himself. It is high time, we empowered our children to be responsible beings.

  20. I totally disagree. Having prefects is teaching you people leadership skills. It how the management uses prefects that matters. They must not be used as instruments of torture or spy agents but as people who can complement leadership in our institutions of learning. They can only punish others if the issue is institutionalized by the management. What happened in alliance boys is only an eye opener to the rot that may be there in our institutions.

  21. This is true and timely. It was the same system perfected by Moi during his Kanu Juu Juu zaidi days. It is a colonial relic which schools use to intimidate and in the process breed ruthless gangsters and drug addicts who resist the system. Thats why childre dont like school and can do anything to get off school. That’s why there are so many strikes and burning of the same due to dehumanizing treatment. Thanks prof for highlighting the same.

  22. I somehow agree with the professor, the prefecture system need changes,the f prefects should have report the mess only to there masters and not talk action at hand there are disciplinary masters in our schools and not fellow students, that is luxity in administration

  23. Matiangi and his babies…not everyone has to see bullying that way. it happens in any paramilitary institutions .Countries with much higher levels of Democracy exercise this…I hope am being clear on the Cs misplaced priorities; and insist that you abolish Strikes by Lectures, The centres for knowledge is handled with less seriousness.

  24. The center is no longer holding. Let’s face the fact, education system in Kenya is going down the drain. Reason, the important actor, the teacher, has been sidelined, confined to the classroom, apportioned all blame for learners’ poor performance. Actually supervised by village elder, area chief et al, including the learners themselves. Their is need to re-look into conduct of affairs in schools.
    Kindly prof. comment on benevolent dictatorship as an applicable leadership style in management of our school institutions.

  25. You just hit the nail professor. I even today have the bitter memories of the experiences o went through in high school. Implementation of your proposed structure would sound like a medicine to my wound

  26. Prof, what do you say about student’s leadership at the Kenyan public universities today?
    Are they democratic? Should such a process be aloud in secondary n primary schools?
    The reactive nature of Kenyans is the poison that will slowly but surely finish us.
    Its hardly a year, since the fire breathing CS said he would use principals of national schools to induct those of smaller schools on management. Can he repeat the statement today?
    I feel Prof, situations should be handled on case by case basis. To generalize ,rationalises the issue and shift the centre of focus.
    Look at Kenyan national leadership, alshabaab has had many repeat attacks killing n maiming innocent Kenyans, at times prior warnings carelessly ignored, do you ever raise issues with holder of the docket? Absurdity, kdf camp in Somalia attacked twice in similar patterns!!
    There is killings, displacement n all manner of humanitarian distress in Baringo. Have you said anything on this?
    Lives must be protected for all at all costs. We must create an impression that a student bully beaten by a prefect at Alliance is the worst case scenario yet.;
    Assassinations,judicial killings,police torture, tribal clashes,etc happen in the watch of the custodians.

  27. Hehehe.. It saddens .what came to the media was just a drop in the ocean .four years at Alliance looked like a century.I hoped to clear highschool sooner …just after the first week.

  28. Are there prefects in European schools? I get irritated when people writing in English keep talking about colonial this, colonial that. I was a prefect at Starehe Boys Centre and in Primary School. I value the experience that has guided me in my life’s endeavours. There was zero bullying at Starehe Boys Centre. We were out brothers keepers. Do not confuse failed management of institutions by Africans and colonialism. Europeans don’t tell us to build roads which get washed away with the first rains. Europeans don’t tell us to steal drugs in our hospitals. A failure in prefecture has absolutely nothing to do with our colonial heritage. It is an inherent failure by Africans to govern themselves.

    • Prof. It is not ignoring my history. I have a problem when people associate our failure in governance with colonialism. To me failure in prefecture is part of that failure in governance that has become commonplace in Black Africa. When Egypt is constructing an 80km tunnel in a record 8 months, we are building 3kms of an ordinary road from KWS to BOMAS for 5 years! Recently Israelis handed over the Kibwezi Irrigation Scheme to The University Of Nairobi. A viable project with markets in Europe and elsewhere. The new management ran down this project in a record time. The Israelis are back. We have to re-examine our values. I do not think The European founders of Missionary Schools left to African Managers bullying as part of initiation into the school way of life. It is the tragedy of African leadership. Have you ever asked yourself how is it that Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Robert Mugabe left colonial jail to become head of government and lived a full life but the African jail left Martin Shikuku and Kenneth Matiba in tatters. So what was the colonial jail doing to Jomo Kenyatta that the African jail couldn’t do to Kenneth Matiba? As I said earlier failure in compassionate governance. Bully Matiba in jail. Bully our kids in school. Bully peasants out of their lands. Bully the poor out of drugs in hospitals. Matatus and bodabodas bullying us on roads etc as police stand by. Failure in self governance professor.

  29. Abolishing prefecture system has only rated the child in building the talents through democracy and knowing the individual abilities during infancy.And if well monitored we can get the real practitioners in all fields and avoid the the unqualified professionalism that we have today,,a teacher by money,a layer by money,a doctor by money and not by career.All these come as a results of poor governance.Matiang’i should remain to ensure change continues in education system which is the overall master.

  30. The prefect system us meant to teach leadership to students because tomorrow they lead the nation. Failed prefect system us because of the redundancy in the Kenyan education system and not a colonial aftermath. Remember when we got liberation from our colonialist we made a choice on how to manage ourselves professor Michael Wainaina. I was a headboy and nobody was bullied during this year.

  31. No wonder so much homeguard mentality across kenya!! Tell me how the ef wenyenchi did not even try mass action after over 30 days of public health sector closure & public university lecturer strike. The home guard need a bwana mkubwa / memsahib for him / her to fix anything! No wonder our leaders buy guzzlers to avoid potholes – who is suppose to fix em??

  32. Whatever is the case, take it that such a thing happened in a small school in Butere, Laisamis, or Rongo.What could have happened to the teachers was to serve as an example to the rest.But since it is Alliance, they are treated with specialities.Here, bwana Matiangi you have bent the rules coz they are special teachers!

  33. We can not blame the prefecture system. For god sake this are sixteen year old put in position of responsibilities apart from their normal studies and without guidance some of the things are bound to happen. During my time in high school the principal suspended the school captain for bullying a fellow student and sacked several prefects with wayward tendencies. He used to remind us everyday that if you put in a position of responsibility, you were there to serve the common good of humanity. Nowadays we have people appointed in positions due to patronage, cronyism and nepotism who don’t deserve to manage school. To make it worse some principals have been in one station for more than fifteen years and this has made them to be complacent.

  34. The distinguished professor need to understand that his address has been overtaken by events.Only AHS at least the one I know still practices such..These days we have secretaries lead by a student’s chairperson. All form a student’s leadership body.They are elected by fellow students through a system well spelt out by the ministry. Their roles,powers and privileges are clearly stipulated. Get the fact right.If AHS is stinking it really doesn’t tell that everywhere stinks.I advice you for free to check the current Guidance and Counselling policy framework in Kenyan schools.

  35. Am aluhya but I will not allow tribalism to divide us, KENYA will only grow without hizo paka mzeees. .am sad that KENYANS will never accept change by themselves

  36. Well said prof. I experienced such atrocities on my first day in school 34 years ago. I have imagined it happend to me then because we were not civilised. Kumbe i have been wrong. I think it’s the high time matiangi put a team of experts to enquire In to what has been the practice in all schools country. As a parent I wd hate to imagine it happening to my kids. I’m a hundred percent with u on this brother

  37. in many ppo minds who are talking of prefects and whatever else they may think are absolutely wrong.
    as a man, u becomes the head of ua home. after siring children they grow and becomes more wiser than u. they dont take power from u or overthrow u, but they becomes the solders of that time. As in long run in life thir children will still do the same to them.
    what i want to mean is that being prefect dont mean that i have powers to do anything i wish. its a person who should have high ability of understanding everyone no matter how low he or shr is

  38. All said bt nt done.The major underlying issue is failure by Jubilee govt to address blight of teachers .since its election teachers were threatened,bulied,looked down upon and ill motivated so will take of sch management?

  39. Most schools now allow the students council elected by students, under what is known as guided democracy, it seems alliance has never inculcated this leadership culture, these are kind of administration where some prefects are given overwhelming powers more than the teachers by the principal. Schools that have endorsed students leadership elected by themselves have bullying character long gone. The problem is when some schools are left operating like ‘ per excellent’ without following the policies but actually doing horrible things.

    • The good ‘prof’ does not take that into account, They are no longer even called prefects rather secretaries with clear cut demarcated boundary of engagement. I have never before seen an article purportedly written by a scholar so skewed in thinking. but your line captures the back bone of it all… ‘that the problem is when some schools are left operating’ per excellent ‘ without following some policies

  40. I believe philosophers no matter the contempt of argument they never show their intent.but sir yesterday on KTN.I realized ur mission.no matter how wise you claim u are .

  41. At my former school, prefects ate special diet, and because it was mixed (boys and girls!)boarding, they broke form 1 hymens with abandon. Let me say I was nauseated by the whole idea of Master-Servant, and most masters scored Es.

  42. kudos professor. i like how you put things. we in grassroot we listens to u at ktn…educate those politician to sell or rather compete with ther manifestos not by tribes. hongera sana.

  43. prof I like your brilliant arguments only that they are too ideal.I watched you on KTN CHECKPOINT I discovered you are always a spectator in you reasoning.how I wish you could be in touch with reality and be practical as opposed to theoritical

  44. In 2014, the ministry of education released a manual to schools guiding them on structuring a Children’s Government, complete with a President, deputy President, speaker and his deputy, 6 cabinet secretaries, 3 senators and class Mps. These leaders should be democratically elected through secret ballot. The deputy head of institution is the chair of the children’s government, therefore he should oversee the whole election process from advertisement of elective posts to swearing in of elected leaders ,

  45. Who is this professor displaying ignorance of the current procedure of constituting student’s governments in schools? For your information, they are allowed up to two weeks of campaigns in schools. Elections are democratic and voting is by secret ballot. No nominations. If this never happened at Alliance, it’s an isolated case

  46. Listening to you yesterday on ktn, I was more convinced you are the right person to push the new narrative. About prefects, we used to call them spies back in the 90s and they didn’t disappoint in that tag

  47. I think teachers are a clever clan……they guided then a fool in perliament said no canning then teachers downtooled and now are prefects munaachisha principal kazi yeye hakujua unless reported to him……so government and tsc stop your mediocrity on teachers be human infact currently teachers are being beaten by students with lame claim of their rights coz teachers have no rights!!!!the way to go many Es,Ds,D-s,D+s……alafu fala ingine inauliza mwalimu kwani nani hufanye sio mwalimu ni mastudi wana works mob

  48. Its a good package of reward for trying to demonise teachers and making any other person including parents and students believe that all teachers don’t deserve any respect tonthe extent that students can compere thenselves in terms of income withbtheir teachers

  49. The school management should be blamed.Mimi nilisomea Meru School in mid 90’s and i never encounted bullying because prefects and captains never excercised powers to punish anyone,all they did was to report you to the principal a certain Mr Kimathi or his able deputy Mr Ireri.

  50. Prof, your critic is noble and laudable. But I beg to differ with you when you lay blame on a Dr Matiang’i, a junior to you in academic rankings. As one who has passed in the hands of you academics and let to face the reality out of the lecture room, I empathize with the Dr. He has the good will and intention to right the mess in the education sector, thanks to our colonial heritage you have observed. We should not squarely lay blame on an individual for the mess of the past. If we were brainwashed in the past and we have realized it now, the good that we can do to outselves is to put right the wrongs of the past by offering tangible solutions rather than idealistic propositions. Prof, the Dr is striving to implement the knowlege you as profs imparted on him.

  51. The current system of electing prefects is very democratic. However, it still remains the responsibility of teachers to closely monitor the performance of prefects in order to root out any excesses. For the Alliance High school incident, it’s likely there was negligence on the part of teachers and more particularly the so called administration. It is unrealistic to lay blame on Matiang’i whenever incidents occur in schools.

    • Democraric yes but highly erratic. Why? Coz elected prefectz remain loyal to thosewho elected them, and not the admin. The recent fires in schools is one of the consequences of electing prefects.

  52. Mr professor I don’t know what Kenya you are talking of since I left Kenya when the system of a student council,democratically elected was in place in our schools,unless you have reverted to the old system of prefects again

  53. Well said prof and this is too what ails our country many people in authority are incompetent and can’t see or create anything out of the box hence continual degradation of our business, political and social environments its really absurd. When you want to know just compare our situation in third world country and u will recognise that it looks the same everywhere

  54. They compliment management at the students level to feel part of the governance structure and system of administration. We may not like them,especially where they are hand-picked ,instead of being elected by the students themselvies.

  55. In Garba Tulla, golden era, I a form 1 had perfect, one Joroge form 5…to teach me how to wash the toilet, he always washed 2 and I washed 1 till our duty was over a class of 40 meant 40 tribes learning together. I think lately something just invaded Kenyan psych.

  56. The article is well researched…and has a lot of depth..they are no easy fixes..which is good coz Kenya’s education system(just like other in country systems)are yet to be,’de-colonized’ with the taming of the Homeguards as well.

  57. I was a prefect for more than eight years, in both primary and high school and believe me, dealing with these “juveniles”,who can do everything just to show who they are and what they want, is another nasty thing. Anyone who was a genuine prefect can confirm this, and especially when the order from above, was for you as a prefect to maintain “order” no matter what it takes. Loyalty of prefectiship to the administration could be an issue but not a Major one. in my own opinion, we need to find out how we have raised these children, have we imparted the right values in them? and who is their role model ?, who are their friends?, and how does their environment of up bringing looks like?. Anything could be a problem here and unless, were are sobber enough, our children will keep on surprising us.

    • I feel you brother. Juveniles get into mischief all the time. Read Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, but the solution is not to clamp down.

      Have you ever been harassed by a receptionist?
      These are people who misuse delegated power. It’s why we are saying this has to stop. Prisons stopped.

    • You have a point..and I support your view..the teachers are the ones who determine the roles the student leaders should play and so if they are instructed to do anything wrong they will adhere to it and vice versa

  58. Everything that has a start has an end,The cause ad effect theory is at work in the education system,Mataingi just removed the lid and things hve started falling apart,I think we need to let the flow continue until the mess is fully wiped out,Education system has been run by cartels for so long that they forgot to seal the loopholes for they believed nothing will ever change,If mataiangi stays in this ministry for another 2 yrs ,kenyas education system will change for better ever,

  59. I would have thought Alliance of all schools has embraced and perfected the new style of inclusive leadership where students are represented in all aspects of administration by their own freely elected students council.
    The council envisages a self regulated student body with representation at all decision making levels and with internally inbuilt checks and balances complete with appeal structures.
    Unfortunately election to the council in many schools that have it are never free and fair because several of the candidates are imposed on voters thro dubious vetting.
    The councils are also not encouraged to nominate members to sit and represent students interest on bodies like BOM, PTA, Staff meetings, etc.

  60. In fact this ideology of alliance high school to give prefects privileges to burl the innocent young form one is the thing of the past.prefects wer only choose to present the views of other students to management. Remember whether u are a perfect or not u went to school for one agenda learning. Stop whatever u are incided to do by management .other students are like your brothers

  61. I think it not the way prefects or students leaders are brought into office, either appointed or elected, its the responsibility of the teachers to make sure thee are no excesses!.. So the headteachers have dropped the ball..

  62. I remember back in my highschool days at Makueni Boys’ high school….I was punished because of challenging games captain for not being fair with interclass competition….. But years later I became a prefect…. Class of 2013…we worked hard towards minimizing prefect powers…. We provided leadership… We ensured harmony in school not the fear that the previous power blinded prefect bodies had installed…. Viva makueni boys class of 2013….

  63. Mr.Professor i think instead of blame game let’s play a solution game.I think it could speak louder than all the much you are throwing to.Dr.Fred Matiangi…..o.k..meza kama….

  64. We must train our students for responsible leadership, the prefect system in our schools was crafted to provide for that…However the powers given to them to the extent of supervising teachers in class and keeping a register of teacher attendance is appalling.When prefects believe that they have powers over teachers you can imagine the kind of atrocities that will be mounted on other junior students…. Because they have nowhere to report to…and at the end the schools produce graduates with emotional and moral challenges…To a greater extent even principals are captives of the prefect system, they fear prefects..prefects are powerful and could even lead the students they have already intimidated to striking against uncooperative principals.

  65. Wonderful writing. No student should punish or have authority over another student .we must forget the first undemocratic system and embrace current constitutional system. Students should elect leaders of their choice and directly answerable to them and School leadership. It is pure absurdity to a student exercise authority over another. Authority from where ? Dr Matiang’i bring change.

  66. This professor knows only how to detect n relate symptoms to a disease!….but cant offer solutions! ….if every time we have a problem with our body part, we cut the part of, then we will soon have no body to talk of!…let recognise our failures n work towards their improvement without having blame games!…we all know our problems, we need visionary professionals to guide us in solution finding!…n matiangi the Dr is doing some fine job!.

  67. Incompetency is number one killer towards positive development…. It’s high time the so called inbounds of un calculated thoughts n minds we’re completely destroyed n washed away….. Let our systems be refreshed once egein…..

  68. I totally i agree with you.teachers fail in their duties when they delegate their disciplinary functions to predects.this in turn empowers predects and subsequently they misuse their power.bottomline-let kick the system out.

  69. All the ills we are witnessing in our beloved country is a reflection of all that has gone wrong in Kenya. It is also a reflection of who we are. If we watch things going wrong and we keep quiet, praying silently for things to sought themselves, how then should we expect positive change? I am the change I want to see, you are also the change you want to see, and together, we shall make Kenya a bearable place to live and work in, harmoniously and peacefully without glorifying people who steal from the poor to drive the top of the range machines.

  70. Thank you Prof. You make me happy by the way you’ve presented your argument. Your points are well researched and presented in an easy to follow approach. The prefecture system is controlled and this needs to be changed. Let students choose their leaders without interference from any quarter and let intervention be there only when it is necessary.

  71. I stand to be corrected, I must say that student councillors ‘prefects’ are nowadays elected unlike in the past, the students participate fully in the election of their leaders. I think what happened in Alliance is just unfortunate, but other schools are quite Democratic.

  72. I wonder why when it comes to matters education,we have so many intellectuals.Thats why you find someone who has never stepped into a class telling off a teacher for correcting his child.Teachers are in the limelight and whatevr mistep they make then they become punching bags…How long for example has Alliance been in existence??

  73. We need a complete overhaul of our current education system ,the other absurdities like forcing public school primary girls to shave thier hair,the school uniform absurdity and grading in exams equally in all schools is an atrocity and inequality ,lets shed off the white mans legacy and come up wt our own home grown system

  74. Prof Wainaina, I agree with you to some extend that the prefecture system in our schools should be reviced to portray our democracy if that system is just.
    However, I think its a bit too much for Kenyans to expect that Matiangi is the one to effect such a change within a system that he himself has been appointed under & is a beneficiary. Its same as saying that if one got elected corruptly,he is in a position to stop corruption.
    I believe that the colonialists had a good strategy of governance when they planned to introduce the homeguard system in Africa. It was their intention that was wrong not the system. Anyone knows that in order for a community or a group to function in harmony, e.g discepline, keep law develop systematically, there has to be authority that implements these laws.

    Governance requires knowledge & wisdom as opposed to popularity & charisma which would cause one,crooks to be elected into office under the democracy umbrella.
    Not that I am against the values that comes with democracy but as a religious person who believes also in submitting to authority,I know that perfect leadership is not found in those elected democratically but in merit & devine appointment of our creator.
    Good leaders should be observed over time to check their intergrity,honesty & commitment to serve others before any appointment is made.
    We all know that this is not the case today in what we refer to as a democratic & fair elections. The society is under siege by the devil & has lost mandate to elect the right leaders who would lead them to prosperity or greatness as it is. Democracy is a system that cares less about morality, intergrity nor justice. It obeys the powerful, manipulates the weak & allows evil to flourish as long as that action isn’t illegal.
    My imagination is that about 80% of all democratically elected leaders in our Kenyan institutions & in government today are not the genuinely, rightfully appointments according to God’s standards.

    This so called democracy allows one to use monitory resources,ethnicity & even gendar in manipulating voters to elect them as oppossed to leadership qualities,intergrity & merit for consideration.

    Democracy was introduced by humans when people of the world turned greedy, mean, proud, selfish & as a result stopped listening from God to seek for his guidelines on all matters of existance on earth. Observe that Biblical leaders like Moses, David, Samuel etc were appointed by God himself through the signs which he allowed to happen in their lives under public witnesses.

    Since then true prophets including Jesus son of God were neglected by interlectuals & people in authority, false prophets were embraced & pride took toll in people’s hearts especially those in authority & learned ones of Prof Wanaina’s calibre.
    This situation has worsened causing a big rift between the true living God & his people which as a result has offered Satan more leverage to manipulate man on earth causing him to become greedy & evil under the pretext of civization or human rights(democracy). What human rights are there with the creator??? He destroys & creates at will!!

    Leadership comes from God, be it homeguards, prefects, chiefs, MPs, Presidents etc. God gives people leaders when they request it from him but through prayers but the same God doesn’t interfere with people’s choices of leaders (democracy) when they elect them without his approval. He has given humanity all the benchmarks for identifying perfect leaders. He would then therefore allow those unapproved leaders to start leading people who insisted on their own democracy because he is a just God. He allows us to make our own choices & gives us space to experience consequences of our choices. Such leaders’ reign cause havoc & unrest in the whole systems that they control(Economic,social & political spheres) because when God isn’t part of a system,then the devil must take control & Satan isn’t fair nor just. There is no middle playing ground, you are either on God’s side or Satan’s.

    As you tell Matiangi to change the prefecture system into Student’s democratical elections, I pressume you’ve also factored in Primary schools especially the lower primary section.Do you think a std 1 kid understands who can represent them better in class? God has given us leaders & wise elders within sectors if existance. These leaders are judged with the responsibility of recommending other ligible heads to the society after consultations.

    We have witnessed great unrests in our colleges(universities) as a result of union leaders elected by masses who have adopted the famous ‘Kitu kidogo’ & external prowess appearance & financial connectivity of a candidate than his intergrity record. No wonder this style of leadership is full of corruption,violence, nepotism or Siasa za upuzi na ukabila as you commonly refer to it. This type of freedom has caused more harm than good in our education systems. No wonder our universities are producing more half baked or vegetable heads at the end of their courses.

    Are you campaigning for National unrests, disasterious & uncontrolable young people’s breeds system to be adopted at all our institutions???? All young people need guidance from their trainers while still in school. Giving them amunition to protect themselves & learn to be peaceful with others is madness & neglect of our God given responsibility to bring up our children.
    Your idea though logical, it lacks the wisdom of divinity & the right methodology, for its implementation for success. There isn’t a day on the face of this earth when a father or mother would promote their child’s rights to make important life’s decisions without seeking for advice from their elders. Such parents should remain childless for ever because this spells doom to our next generation. We are here today because our elders never set us free in doing what we felt like when still under their custody. Well, trying to please young people without a vision for their welfare is not only lack of leadership quallitiy but brainless. The Alliance boys high school is just one in thousands of bullying cases in Kenyan schools & it probably didn’t start yesterday. Its only that there is more freedom for Kenyans to express themselves today compared to 30yrs ago. For some reason, bullying during our time in school was considered the right of passage for a Form 1 student. It wasn’t only acceptable by students themselves but by teachers as well. It’s a practice to be discouraged at all costs but in all institutions of learning but should not be used to demonize the prefecture system. You don’t throw all the eggs in a busket just because you have one rotten egg nor do you let other good eggs to defend themselves from the rotten one because of democracy!!!!

    Remember that though you hold an academic PHD, there are some who have attained the highest level in spiritual matters which are higher than this life..

    • I think you are much pasting as a pastor the whitemans holybook bible ,so far no one have ever seen that white ghost as it is claimed who saw it is in the same book explaining it ,so how can it select leaders ,what is the principle behind its really god selection deal ,you see it means another human appoint as whiteman appointed chiefs ,so not the god ,just a human as so far xtian and islam religions are made of ignorance so no realty of god selecting , we humans choose ourselves in reality as no god has business with our form of governance , so of course xtianity is unspirtual and is a reality only serving whitemans agendas ,even democracy was made by xtians ,so they could over throw other kingdoms and end Catholic ruled Roman empire ,even a child knows who can lead them best just try remembering your child life ,you knew who were good and who were bad ,even for example in Ancient Egypt was ruled by young Pharoh as young as 9years and they were successful !!

  75. back in those days in highschool.prefects had power even to an extend of sending you home
    I remember being punished by a teacher in MWAANI BOYS’HIGH SCHOOL,,for disobeying a prefects order,,,to hell with that regime mkaozee hukoooooooo..PREFECTS BODY ,2009,2010,2011

  76. I hate to admit that I agree with you on this one just like your other articles that I’ve read. However I need to point out that some of the recommendations you propose are already being or has been implemented.
    For instance, we now have students council as opposed to prefects.
    Two,The council is elected into office by students themselves and not teachers or administration.
    So as far as democracy and legitimacy is concerned I would argue that we are sorted to the extent that it is being implemented.
    However, and herein lies the problem, most of the people who are in charge of such policy implementation are either beneficiaries or sympathisers of the prefecture system and therefore as long as they are still in charge implementation cannot be perfect.
    Secondly in a country with dysfunctional systems and suffering from leadership disability from the priests to the president can we have Students democratically elected otherwise, who can run schools without succumbing to electorate pressure or being popular with the students. I think its more complicated than we may admit.
    I am a teacher and we’ve had experience where a student lacking in leadership qualities in all aspects gets elected just because he’s ‘ smooth. I think we will never reform any system if we don’t reform the society.
    I wouldn’t blame Matiangi. I blame my society.

  77. Prefects are given excess power and are always favoured even after physically assaulting fellow students,they also have the privilage of doing all the illegal stuff becoz they are authority.
    Ati DH prefect must have muscle so that he can slap you if you bring disorder,dorm prefects with the power to cane the hell out of students who dont clean dorms they are just bullies to the common students #banprefectsystem.

  78. Thanks proff for reminding us the root cause of bad leadership in our funny nation,your agenda is now open we raise a third force right from primary school,its a brilliant idea,but the fact that those in primary and secondly schools are still kids altmost care must be taken to ensure the society evils is not imported to our schools.

  79. Dr. Matiangi, this is a convincing and authoritative suggestion from prof. Wainaina Michael. Consider it. I was personally monolised when I joined a new school, Riokindo Boys’ at form four, imagine. There is too much notoriety in this prefecture system. Alliance is not an isolated case. Democratize our schools now, Bwana CS, Matiangi


  81. In my school the prefects were feared and revered. They were unjust in their highminded rulings and could make a student be suspended over a trivial matter. They could mete out punishments at will and always managed to exasperate the large student body with their injustices. The young ones who joined every year were terrorised by these demigods who slapped them, spat on their faces, kicked them, walked on their backs, denied them food, As a nation, we have outgrown these barbaric and outdated colonialism!


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