Sunday, 15 September 2013


Henry Raichena

RIP Henry Raichena

In life God's providence has ways of helping us out of our very "human fixes". God's providence sometimes works through people... sometimes works through situations. God's providence worked for me through Henry Raichena Chief Principal Mang'u High School - my Headmaster, Headteacher... Principal at Nkubu High School. So when he passed on this week - I do not know what to do to thank providence or to do the human thing - weep for loss.

Pretty uncommon I know - not many of us owe anything to our HMs maybe some caning... making life "unnecessarily difficult or interesting - tis interesting to have a "bad cop". Well mine is a different story and I owe this HM.

Raichena joined Nkubu High same year I joined in 1996 - so in a special way our class "Nkubu class of 99" were his first Form One class - he was new... we were new.

I owe Henry Raichena personally because I came into the school two weeks later than other Form one's reason - I didn't have money. He told my mum if we went home and came back with at least part of the fees we could talk... so that is how my four year story of a man who was patient with a financially challenged family begun... and so it stayed till I cleared my high school. So if I finished high school - I owe this man in a big way. God's providence brought him into my life - he stayed on in Nkubu only for one more year after I left - and he went to on to greater challenges "Mang'u Boys".

Raichena got the name Guinness as his nickname.
Teenage boys are a troubled age - and physical size is a big achievement for a teen. So I guess it was really esteem bolstering for the big boys to see they were taller than their Principal hence the name Guinness - since it was the shortest bottle of beer the boys knew about.

Anyway in retrospect I look back and think we may have unwittingly prophesied what Raichena was and what he would be - He was a Great Man and much later when I see the "Reach for Greatness" Ads I realize we had one such great man in our midst. The man we called Guinness

Raichena did what leaders do. He changed our culture, our expectations of ourselves, appearance of the school. He left his mark.
When Raichena came to Nkubu all our dorms and classes had "potholes". Okay this is not metaphorical - see the potholes you see on the road and pick that picture and put it in a dorm...that was Nkubu High. The school performed well in sports and academics but it was just guts and a great tradition - not infrastructure. We were so badly off and we assumed that is how things were supposed to be. Tree stumps were common in classes as chairs and sharing desks was common place especially for Form Ones. I had been to a posh primary school (story for another day) Consolata Primary School all my life - I didn't know sitting on a tree stump or a log could happen in a school.

Raichena changed all that - we had new desks brought in for all Form Ones - that didn't make us favorites with other classes "We were Guinno's Monos" (Guinness's Form Ones).

By the time I cleared Form Four in 99 I could not recognize the school I had walked in to in Feb 96 - transformation is the only word for what Raichena did. All floors had been repaired. We had a new one storey dorm complex - the first building in Nkubu high that rose above ground floor. The school even had its first computer (okay stop laughing - at least now you see from what depths we were at)

The dining hall which had a collapsing roof... flaky green paint that looked black and grey and something in between ... mega pot holes and tables that scared the hell out of the phrase "sit down to lunch". (Actually most students used to sit outside on the grass and eat - can't blame them). When I left Form Four our dining room could actually host district level events it was well lit, had a stage to convert it into a hall for such events. All tables were new - had red Formica you could actually sit down to a meal.

Somehow when your surroundings change your esteem is boosted - something about the way Nkubu boys carried themselves during his time was very telling about how they felt about their school. There was PRIDE.
There was pride in the way prefects carried themselves in their new blue blazers with gold stripes (I never was a prefect - but I saw pride). Even us the non prefects started wearing our ties religiously on weekdays - dressing down only on weekends (Nkubu High before "Guinness" didn't have ties). We even got school IDs ... somehow it was quite a bother to us then but in retrospect I see now why we had to identify with something or learn the feeling of being someone... and Raichena did that for us.
NKUBU ID - finally we identified with being part of an institution

VERITAS ET FORTITUDO - Truth and Courage

boys in ties - suddenly our mindsets changed about the sort of people we were

There was pride when the Soccer team in 98 in blue shorts and yellow T-shirts run down the steps of our tallest building (our one storey dorm) on to the field to win the Meru District Inter School sports which we were hosting and proceed to Provincial level as District Champions. There was pride in every event we attended because when you said "Nkubu High" you knew you were the best.

Our anthem used to be something like
Oh hail to dear Nkubu, school we all love
Truth and courage is our battle cry
St. Joseph is our captain, Christ is our King
We'll keep on fighting until we win
Success in our studies, Victors in sports
East of Mt. Kenya we are always top
You will know us always as Nkubu Boys

I think I forgot a couple of lines or the sequence.
Nkubu High Scout - Admin block in background

Nkubu High boys - chilling on a weekend

But in Henry Raichena's time we actually believed our anthem and this paid off when the class of 98 were the 28th best school in KCSE nationwide that year.

Many of us may not have understood what transformational effect Raichena had on schools until his former school "Terige High School" from the Rift Valley sent a delegation of students to see where their Principal had gone to. Suddenly we realized we had a "prize possession" in our midst and loud arguments were heard in dormitories against any imaginary "enemy" who wanted to take our headmaster.

I know by this time next week we will have laid him to rest - the man we all loved to call "Guinness" but today with a bit of angst - I remember this man who made us the men we are today - men who are proud of who we are... men who know how to fight to win... men who believe that things can be made better... men who decades later still come together because we identify with a Nkubu he built - this Giant of a man.

1 comment:

John Paul Karijo said...

Requiem mass was today at Mang'u really colorful.
Nice to see Raichena stayed to true to form and really made Mang'u boys look awesome new hall, new admin block.
May he Rest In Peace

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Loving life and living it. “Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” (Mary Anne Radmacher)
Give yourself completely in everything for that is love and only when we love can we find God.