“I hope I did not keep you waiting,” says Dr. Edward Mungai as he darts up the stairs holding a cup of hot beverage. Lifting it up slightly, he says it’s cocoa, it will help keep me awake during the interview. “Welcome, have a seat,” he adds. His office is immaculate. Everything is in its place. Placing my belongings on the table feels like cluttering the room. From where I sit, the big window reveals the trees as they sway rhythmically. I can feel the wind whisper as it permeates the room. The canopies provide shade to the red gazebos on the lawn along Ole Sangale road. We should all make an effort to stop by there and enjoy the breeze in one of the hidden gems of the campus. From a far distance, one can hear sneaky hooting of matatus as they drive by. Being orderly is one of the many habits the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Planning and Development, learnt from childhood. Today he lets us in to his time capsule.
Tell us more about your childhood.
I grew up in Kiambu in a family of six. I am the second born. I walked to school every morning while I delivered about eight litres of milk in a metallic churn to Githunguri dairy. The dairy is still operational and best known for its Fresha products. From class one to class four, we studied for only half a day and left school during lunch hour. From class five to class seven we had a full day of school, so many times we would carry our lunch with us. On some instances, I challenged myself to sprint home for a hot meal only to miss my mum and have to return to school starving. The sound of my growling empty stomach was not music to my ears. For secondary education, I went to St. Joseph’s Secondary School, Githunguri, and later on to Machakos Boys for my A-levels. I vividly remember that my form one first term fees was Kshs. 544. That figure has stuck in mind to date. Prior to joining A-levels, I worked at a coffee factory where I earned Kshs. 30 per day. My task was to routinely spread the coffee beans so they could dry evenly. That was my first experience in the workforce. After form six, I joined the National Youth Service (NYS).
What can you tell about your experience at NYS?
During my time, it was a requirement to attend NYS for about three months before joining the university. I was based at the Gilgil camp and the experience was one of a lifetime. NYS has a way of building your resilience, making it easier to handle the various facets of your life. I remember how we once we walked from our camp site in Gilgil to the farming site where we were to sleep that day. I cannot equate the distance but I vividly recall we left the camp at around 9 p.m. only to arrive at the farm at around 3 a.m. Talk about being tired to an extent of sleeping on a bed without a mattress! Did I also mention that during the three-month stay all of us took turns to watch the campgrounds at night? This was rotational and compulsory. The cold in the wee hours of the morning had a way of permeating your body to the bones, it felt like you were being bit. All I can say is we learnt how to SURVIVE! I mean, what can shake you after such an experience? I believe it would be a great perk for current university students to attend something similar, though optional for those that wish to.
Of the many things you have learnt in life, what is the one thing you wish everyone valued?
In my life’s journey I have come to appreciate the power of human connection and the appreciation of the differences that make us unique. That is why I advocate for mediation, which is the action of intervening on behalf of another in a dispute in order to resolve concerns at hand. Mediation offers possible options and solutions to many as they gradually seek serenity to the challenges at hand. Though voluntary, mediation provides an opportunity for win-win outcomes for all parties involved in a dispute. Additionally, and maybe more importantly, it restores relationships between family members, business partners, communities, etc. Dependable family relationships are a vital part of society and that is why my wife Lucy and I are determined to help young single men and women start on a good note through our online platform,. For any relationship to thrive, there is need for one to have a pause button so we can take a breather before we act or react.
To conclude, from books or movies you have enjoyed, which ones would you recommend?
- Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel. His life story and role as a pope is one we cannot overlook.
- From Third World to First: The Singapore Story – 1965-2000 by Lee Kuan Yew. This is a story of how one president raised a nation from a little known British colony to a thriving Asian metropolis with the world’s fourth–highest per capita real income.
- Sound of Music – A movie based on the 1949 memoir – The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp.
- The Passion of The Christ – The movie on Christ’s crucifixion, based on the New Testament.
- The Founder – the movie about the origins of McDonald’s and starring Michael Keaton.
As you can see, I prefer books and movies based on real life stories.
Dr. Edward Mungai is a father of three girls and two boys. He has a PhD in Management from IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, a Master of Science degree in Pure Mathematics, a Postgraduate Diploma in Computer Science, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics all from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He is a UK Facilit8 accredited mediator at Strathmore Dispute Resolution Centre. He joined the University in 1996.
This article was written by Annete Karanja.
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