Hailing From Litein Sub County In Kericho County, Taita Arap Towett remains a paradoxical character who served at the helm of the Ministry of education in Kenya.
Born in 1925, Towett commenced his education at Litein Primary School before continuing his studies at Kabianga Mission School.
He attended Alliance High School and then transferred to Uganda’s Makerere University College after scoring the highest grade in the country in the Kenya African Preliminary Examination in 1948.
Towett joined the political arena in 1958, when he was elected to represent Kericho in the Legislative Council.
He was re-elected to the Legislative Council in 1961 after serving as the Assistant Minister for Agriculture the previous year.
In 1961, he served as Minister of Labour and Housing; the following year, he took on the role of Minister of Lands, Surveys, and Town Planning.
He first won election to KADU in 1963, representing the Bureti Constituency. Towett, however, eventually quit Parliament and joined KANU. In 1969, he made a triumphant return to politics, this time serving as the Member for Buret and the Minister of Education.
The legislator continued in his role as Minister of Housing and Social Services after being re-elected in the 1974 General Election.
Towett’s controversial comments on widespread student failure on national tests made headlines throughout his time as Minister of Education from 1969 to 1979. He took a bold step by publishing an advertisement encouraging students not to give up and offering his assistance.
Within two weeks, he received over a thousand messages from interested students, but the outcome of his offer is still unknown.
He had firm beliefs on issues like schooling and criminality. He believed that exam scores shouldn’t be used to determine a student’s future prospects in education.
However, he also made headlines by calling for the public execution of thieves as a deterrent to crime.
Taita was a stickler for timeliness, even into his old age, and would chide individuals who were late.
Mr. Mathew Thuita; his driver, revealed that he always faced his companions when he talked to them.
He either removed the passenger seat entirely or turned it around so that he was facing whoever was in the back of the car while he was talking to someone. In one instance, he even replaced the back seat of his brand new Isuzu Trooper with a sack filled with cement.
His personal life included several marriages and subsequent divorces. A disagreement over child custody led to his separation from his first marriage.
Towett insisted that his wife and children schedule visits with him in advance. Despite this, he had a deep love for his 26 children and his remaining spouses, whom he thought were all very bright.
In 1981, he caused more uproar by disclosing that he had left a will specifying that his remains be kept for anatomic investigations after his death.
Towett’s life was cut tragically short on the eve of Moi Day, October 8, 2007, when he was killed in a car accident on the route to his home in Mashimoni, Just a few kilometres from the residence, his car slammed into the back of a canter truck.