It has been a very sad way to begin out new year at BISA by saying a final farewell to our much loved BTEC teacher, Mr Alex Mokua, may he RIP.
On Thursday 29th August, the school held a memorial for him. It was lovely to see so many parents and some ex BISA students attending. It was a very emotional and poignant tribute with many students standing up and sharing stories about how beautifully he affected their learning and their lives.
After all the spoken tributes, the school gathered around the table tennis area, and planted a mango tree for Mr Mokua. The students also buried some symbolic trinkets with the tree: a ping pong ball, as we all know what a star Mr Mokua was at the game and how he would spend many hours playing with the students, improving their games; a coffee mug remembering how Mr Mokua would come into the classroom on cold mornings with his shuka wrapped around his shoulder, clutching a hot cup of coffee; a Manchester United badge, for obvious reasons and a letter of gratitude from KS4 students.
Ms Rogers also read out a beautiful tribute, shared below. This was also read by Mr Magambo who travelled to Kenya for the burial.
Alex joined Braeburn 8 years ago from Premier Academy and immediately impressed our Head teacher with his knowledge and passion for learning. Anyone who knew Alex would agree with us that he was a walking encyclopedia! He talked knowledgably about such a wide range of topics from Kenyan Politics, Philosophy, Ethics, Technology and sport, to name just a few. Not surprisingly, he was then able to teach a wide range of subjects to a very high level including Geography, Environmental Management, Economics and Business. But it was with Business that he really made his mark in our school: He set up and developed our highly successful BTEC Business programme to further hands-on and practical learning. Through this programme he nurtured many young men and women who had begun to lose confidence in their ideas and their ability. He motivated and inspired them to believe in themselves and find success. Many of these young men and women left us to become successful business men and women, inspired in part by his belief in them, and as a result his students are now scattered across the world. Huge numbers of these young people join with us today in spirit to mourn the loss of an inspirational man, knowing that their success was, in part, as a result of his training, his encouragement and his mentoring. Furthermore, his knowledge of Nairobi and his incredible networking skills also enabled him to set up our extremely successful work experience programme that had a positive impact on so many and was often one of the highlights of being in the sixth form.
But Alex was so much more than just an inspirational Business teacher: He was a wonderful story teller – telling tales of his numerous adventures in Nairobi, that would capture the imagination of both students and staff alike. He was proudly patriotic and wanted us all to see how amazing and advanced Nairobi is. He was also hugely competitive, whether in debates or in playing games like chess, snooker or football – but the game he made the greatest impact on in our school – was ‘Table Tennis’. He spent all his breaks, lunch times and after school playing and coaching students in the game and they loved him for it. I think it was Mercy who once described our school as ‘a school of second chances’ and Alex absolutely believed in giving young people a second chance. He would get alongside students who were going through a difficult time and who were displaying challenging or difficult behavior and through patience, wisdom and kindness, he would encourage them to get back on board and to engage. As a result, whilst he was in charge of our upper school, not one child got into serious trouble. He managed to pre-empt and deal with every issue before it ‘exploded’ or got out of hand. And our young people recognized his belief in them. When asked what they loved about Alex, a number said: “He listened and always gave us a chance.” He got alongside young people, instead of condemning them, and diffused difficult situations with his wit and good humour and this in turn earned him the school’s respect.
He also made a huge impact in our boarding house: Not only did he help students with their homework once a week but he acted as a surrogate father to the 15 and 16 year old boys, taking them out to watch football or eat nyama choma to give them some fatherly advice at the same time. Alex was loved because – in the student’s words: ‘He was so real.’
To the staff of our school Alex was supportive and fun. He was a great member of our team who freely gave of his wisdom and experience and we all are so grateful we had the chance to know him, to work with him and to see him as our brother. Alex left us at the height of his career in education: celebrating the best Business results we have ever had; being recognized by our exam board as the best Business teacher in the world; winning $1000 for the school through his work with the Young Enterprise group that he set up. He has certainly had a positive impact on our school.
One of our parents told us: ‘Death can never take a good man away, for, in the hearts of the people he inspired, the legacy remains and continues throughout generations’ and that is true of Alex – He has had a positive impact on so many people across the world.
There is a huge Alex Mokua hole in our school now that will never be filled. Yet we have recognized this week that he will always be remembered: We see him in the bright red shukas outside of the school gate; we hear him through the laughter and banter round the table tennis table; and we hear of the impact of his teaching through the messages we get from our students in numerous businesses across the world. His positive presence is felt in his room, and across the school and the effect of his kindness is seen in all the children who made it over the world – in spite of all the challenges they met on the way.
Like all of you here, in our little school in Tanzania, we joined with you in spirit in mourning the loss of a very good man, who meant so much to all of us. There has been a lot of sadness and tears but whenever we start sharing our memories of Alex, there’s inevitably been a lot of laughter too. And this is how we at school remember him: Alex lived life to the full, he enjoyed his work and he loved being around young people. He was approachable, wise and real. He didn’t squander the life that he had in grumbling and negativity but he made the absolute most of it, seeing the best in young people and hope in the future, and perhaps this was his departing message to us all.