Simon Gicharu is a Kenyan teacher, who has managed to transform from the classroom to owning one of the successful universities in Kenya. Education Insight, a magazine in Kenya described him as an ordinary teacher who has made it to the top.
At just 44, the man is the brain behind Mt Kenya University. However, what is interesting of all is that on the first visit to Rwanda, Gicharu was able to identify the country’s great investment opportunities.
“This is the first time to visit Rwanda, but for the two weeks I have been here, I have identified investment opportunities and I have decided to invest in this growing economy. We are to open Mt Kenya University Rwanda this year, and we have already identified where we can locate a coordination centre,” Gicharu said.
Gicharu visited various institutions of higher learning which included Tumba College of Technology (TCT), Rwanda Tourism University College (RTUC) and Adventist Secondary School in Rubavu, where he donated text books and laptops to the best performers in particular courses.
Path to the top
Gicharu dismisses the mentality that teachers hardly save- can neither invest, nor have the potential to become what they encourage others to be.
He says his background and what he has attained in life, in addition to other teachers, debunks the notion that teachers are doomed to a lowly life.
“The wake up call to other teachers is that they should utilize the profession to become what they ought to be. Our profession gives us the chance to rise and to hold any public responsibility we encourage others to hold. What matters, is one’s focus and determination towards achieving his goals.”
Born in 1964 in a small village of Gathiru-Ini, Komothai in the location of Kiambu district, Kenya`s central province, Gicharu is the first born in a family of seven.
However, he is quick to add that his was an ordinary upbringing and he has vivid memories of that time of his life while in primary school and later as a secondary school student.
“I can not say that I came from a poor family, but what I recall is that it was just like any other ordinary family like other Kenyans.”
He notes that “people’s success is mostly driven by their ambitions even when they do not inherit property… but are educated.”
He adds that “none of us inherited property apart from the education that has made us what we are today.”
Gicharu went to Murang`a High School and later joined Kenyatta University in 1990 where he was awarded a Bachelor of Education (double mathematics).
He started the teaching career from Thika Training Institute, at the same time he wrote his book on applied mathematics which was published by the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation.
He later joined Jomo Kenyatta Institute of Agriculture and Technology, from where the British Council awarded him a scholarship at Cransfield University in the United Kingdom.
“In 1996, I started Thika Institute of Technology offering short courses in computer applications, which I later diversified and offered medical laboratory training and pharmacy courses,” Gicharu says.
He says that his Institute had instant success because “both medical and pharmacy courses attracted a big number of students which became the foundation of Mt Kenya University.”
Currently, he employees about 400 staff at a university which handles over 10,000 students including full and part time students and long distance learners.
Stating his vision for education investment in Rwanda, he says that “it is through such a background with a mission of regional spread and becoming the leading university not only in numbers of students, but with suitable solutions to society problems that I am to invest in this country through opening Mt Kenya University Rwanda this year.”
Gicharu explains that the university will focus on health science and advancement in technology, given its role in national development.
He adds that human capacity building through education requires making consultations to fight the many challenges involved.
“I have and will continue making consultations from different specialists all around the world. I that respect, I have been able to move to different countries including European countries, North America, Middle East among others,” he said.
Gicharu explains that despite never holding any administrative responsibility in his career as a teacher, it never stopped him from achieving his ambitions.
He says “I never held any administrative post or responsibility for the time I served as a teacher. Not even a head teacher or any thing below that, but this could not stop me from aiming higher to achieve my life time ambitions.”
He says that there are always challenges along the way to success, but notes that “what makes a man is not the luxurious life style he enjoys, but rather the hard times he gets through.”