Peter Ouma Obwogo is Kenyan’ top principal of 2015

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By Zabde Ayienga

Local media has given extensive coverage to the nomination of Peter Ouma Obwogo as Kenya’s top Principal of the year 2015. What the media may not know is how Peter balances professional principles and standards of performance of his school with often challenging community matters on the other hand.

He has to address student poverty issues, numerous deaths in families every year, school discipline as well as sound teaching and study habits. His handling all these with exceptionality landed Peter Ouma Obwogo this prestigious award.

Peter is a man I knew when we were at Teachers College in Kagumo, Nyeri, Kenya.  We ate our college meals from one plate with our fingers for the duration of our training.  At that time, Peter was just another student in a college of over five hundred. Today, Peter has pulled away from the crowd and distinguished himself as an outstanding participant in Kenya’s national development.

Kenyan culture , as is common across Africa, emphasises the social aspect of society over the  individualism.  Peter has shared with me several examples where social demands conflict with the academic expectations at his school. His decision of going the extra mile to avoid mediocrity at St. Josephs High School, Kitale, has come at a personal price.

For example, relatives and friends frequently plead with him to admit their boys whose mean score at grade eight (standard eight), although outstanding, is still below the minimum standard set for St. Joseph’s National High School. Peter continues to make the difficult social choice of not admitting these boys to his school. Consequences are often the loss of some friends and a less than warm reception at some homes in the villages where these boys come from.

The issue of deaths is another sad matter Peter deals with many times every year. Just recently, a student lost his mother. Peter facilitated the cost of travel and upkeep of the boy, some peers, his class teacher, as well as providing a cash donation to the grieving family.

tion to the grieving family.

Student poverty remains a challenge which Peter confronts all the time. To reduce this scourge, he has initiated income generating school projects supported by the students. The money generated suppliments individual student tuition shortfalls where possible. Projects include a corn milling machine, a fish pond, pig rearing and a bakery. Peter said to me over the phone as I was checking these facts with him that there are some really desperate cases where he just has to somehow look the other way and let a student stay and study because all avenues of additional income have been exhausted. “At that point we just make do, and keep moving forward”, he says.

Then there is another side of Peter Obwogo that is extremely gracious. His school has zero tolerance for students involved in theft. The rules are automatic suspension and likely expulsion upon further investigation. Consequently very few cases of theft are reported at St. Joseph’s National High School. However, in 2013 when I first visited him, a number of students were on suspension pending expulsion because of theft.

I happened to also be visiting my Pastor cousin called Justus Ayiengah in Bungoma, a town about two hours drive from Kitale. I learned from Pastor Justus Ayiengah that one of the suspended boys was son to a member of his Church. Justus, knowing that Peter and I were friends, asked me to intervene. He was hoping Peter would pardon this boy (guilty as he was), and have him take the final secondary school exams that year. I brought this issue up with Peter at dinner time. He listened to my plea in silence. I recall him simply saying, “Ayienga, eat your supper”.

With that statement this particular conversation was terminated. I felt I had pushed our friendship too far on this one. It is only much later in 2015 on our last visit to Kenya that I learned that Peter had indeed pardoned the boy and readmitted him to St. Joseph’s High School. The boy reformed. He went on to pass his national examination with a “B” average and is currently in college. Peter is director of a bursary called Obwogo Education Fund (OEF). He is contributing

significant amounts of personal money towards this cause so that bright but poor children do not get excluded from formal education.  Peter knows that success is a community effort. He has partnered with Catholic clergy through OEF to support a home which takes in children with severe physical disabilities. His fund helps provide food and clothing. He is also turning over all monies accrued from his first book entitled “Changing Boys into Men of Integrity” to the Childrens’ Home.

Last but not least, Peter has joined our newly launched Charity called Village In Motion (VIM) as the fourth founding member. He is our VIM country representative in Kenya in partnership with Border to Border Christian Fellowship (BBCF-Kenya) to execute our mandate which is “committed to increasing literacy and reducing poverty by establishing community-based village libraries in Western Kenya”.

He attends VIM meetings via WhatsApp and is available to fly to Toronto to attend our Annual General Meetings (AGM).  Peter Obwogo can be reached at or on phone at (011254) 723 557 070.




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