President Uhuru Kenyatta’s command of the Swahili language was not always as good as it is today. It took the Head of State some lessons before he mastered the language.
In the run-up to the 2002 General Elections, where Uhuru was competing against Mwai Kibaki, Kefa Ng’ang’a, a primary school teacher, was hired to teach him Swahili to enable him to not only connect with ordinary citizens but also appeal to them.
Kefa was approached by former Information Permanent Secretary (PS), Wamatu Njoroge, after presiding over a prize-giving ceremony at Happy Times Schools in Gatundu, where he addressed the gathering in Swahili.
Njoroge, who was a parent at the school, was impressed by Kefa’s proficiency and offered him a job in the presidential campaign team.
He was asked to polish Uhuru’s Swahili so he could address the masses effectively, an offer he gladly accepted.
An undated image of Kefa Ng’ang’a.
Kefa would go to The Chancery Towers along Valley Road, where Uhuru’s office was located at the time, four times a week and meet up with the president for classes.
However, their schedule changed occasionally due to Uhuru’s busy campaign schedule.
According to the Swahili teacher, Uhuru was a cooperative student and would grasp new terms with ease.
Kefa would prepare Uhuru’s speeches in Swahili and hand them to Njoroge, who would make sure that everything was factual and captured well.
The communication team would also sit down to review Uhuru’s performance and would point out the areas that he needed take note of in future speeches.
Kefa not only taught Uhuru how to pronounce words but also graded him up until the country went to the polls.
He states that the president was very keen and never forgot what the teacher had taught him. Sometimes, Uhuru would correct himself when he errored.
Kefa divulged that he lost touch with Uhuru after he lost the 2002 General Election and Njoroge, who brought him into the team, passed away.
He noted that he really struggled to get another job until the following year, when he was recalled to the school where he had been teaching.
During a TV interview in October 2020, Kefa expressed his desire to meet Uhuru before he completes his term.
An undated image of President Uhuru Kenyatta with pupils from Westlands Primary School.