Dr. Charles Amulega: The Gentleman Who Gave Us the “Password” of Life
The reality of losing Dr. Charles Amulega is now slowly sinking in. I remember him every time I go to Phase One, in front of the Chapel where I last met him some time in June-July 2021 and had a brief discussion about books. I have kept watching a video I took at his burial ceremony in Vihiga for days, reminding me of the reality of life; today you are alive, tomorrow you are in another world.
A lot has been said of Dr. Amulega and through this article I don’t wish to claim to rewrite all that has been said or provide a compressive account of his life. However, I only intend to reflect more on the issue of the ‘password’ that has since become a reflection point for many. The password story started a day before Dr. Amulega’s death. His friends, Mr. Raymond Mutura and Mr. Dominic Chesire visited him while he was in hospital. After spending time with him, he asked Raymond to help him mark his CATs and assignments since he was unable to mark them. Thinking that the CAT Papers were somewhere in his house, Mr. Mutura reached out to his son Alvaro, who gave him the papers. It was at that point that Dr. Amulega struggled to mention that the CATs were on the e-learning platform and that he would give Raymond the password so that he could mark them.
Reflecting on the pain he was going through at the time and the fact that he could still think of giving the password struck Raymond and has since touched anyone who hears the story. Literally, on his death bed, he was still thinking of the welfare of the students. On his death bed, he was still thinking of the sanctity of ordinary work, well done. What a man!
Reflecting on the password story, I now remember that Dr. Amulega had given me another password earlier on in 2012. He was a man of passwords. I had just registered for my CPA Course in Strathmore and Dr. Amulega was our lecturer of Introduction to Ethics. At first, it appeared a bit strange that Strathmore required us to study this unit yet it was not examinable by KASNEB. I felt it was an unnecessary burden until Dr. Amulega came to class. Indeed, he was a gentleman. His style of teaching resonated with the unit and his life was a manifestation of the unit. I loved how gentle he was. If you asked him a question after class, he would explain it as if he had nothing else to do. This struck me. I wasn’t used to this; having a lecturer who is approachable, patient with students and genuinely interested in the individual.
Dr. Amulega introduced me to ethics-gave me the password to ethics. The more he taught, the more I resonated. He raised many issues in class. Once I asked him, “does ethics really pay? It seems that those who are unethical are getting away with life?” His answer kept me thinking for a long time. “Ethics does not only pay, but it rewards the person and society generously, both in this life and the next!” Wow…I didn’t expect that.
That was the early days of my knowing Dr. Amulega. What I learnt from him and the notes he shared kept me going through my undergraduate studies at Kenyatta University. Deep down, I wanted to “learn more and know more about Ethics.” In fact, in one of my articles in 2016, I wrote about Dr. Amulega. I noted that I had never found a subject so relevant as ethics. In the article, I referred to Dr. Amulega as my favourite lecturer of all time. I only compared him to Mr. Ogutu Joseph, my former high school teacher and favourite teacher of all time.
As if following the script of fate, I found myself back in Strathmore in 2017 to study Masters of Applied Philosophy and Ethics (MAPE), a course Dr. Amulega had just graduated from three years before. I had secured a scholarship to pursue a Masters of Science in Entrepreneurship elsewhere, but as it now appears to me, the password that Dr. Amulega had given me was directing me to MAPE.
We didn’t meet again until I started serving as a Graduate Assistant in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS) in 2018, where he was a lecturer. As we were now colleagues in the same department, I looked for him and reminded him of my first encounter with him. He couldn’t remember the details, but he told me how much he enjoys teaching ethics and, most of all, living it. I worked with him invigilating some of his CATs and exams and each time, I admired the gentleness in the man. Occasionally, we would meet and talk about nothing specifically. After my MAPE graduation in December 2020, he reached out and welcomed me into the “staffroom of teachers”. Now, I would join Daktari in teaching Ethics, using the password that he gave me eight years earlier; that “ethics does not only pay, but rewards the person and society generously, both in this life and the next!”
This went on until June 2020 when we got another point of connection. He reached out to me after a presentation I made to the Strathmore University Staff on the value of growing a reading culture at home. He told me that he wasn’t aware that I was that passionate about books and reading. Henceforth, he started calling me his “reading friend”. Thereafter, he asked if we could have tea and talk about books. He told me of the book he co-authored with his wife, Victoria; Solving Problems Occurring Early in Marriage. He told me of his desire to write another book about his life. I promised to help him and do my best to support him in realizing this desire. We didn’t come up with any specific plan to achieve this, but it became something that we always remembered when we met.
Occasionally, he would reach out to me and tell me, ‘you remember that desire (of writing another book) I told you of, I am still on it.’ Sometime in June or July 2021, I was asked to help him teach his classes as he was feeling unwell and when he reached out to tell me how far he had gone with his classes and share his materials, he reminded me of his desire to write. Again, I assured him of my support and shared with him an article with tips to help him start off. He confirmed receipt and told me that he was determined to write his story at all cost. That was the last conversation I had with Daktari.
Well, Dr. Amulega didn’t manage to write his story in a book as he had wished but looking back, I think he actually did; by giving people the password to life-ethics. His life is a story written in people’s hearts and available not only in libraries and bookshops but everywhere.
Thank you very much Daktari for the Password!
This article was written by Gabriel Dinda, a Teaching Fellow at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
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