African Scouting (20th c.)
"Scouting – Helping to Prepare Leaders of Tomorrow" [Article]
Jeremiah (J.J.M.) Nyagah was one of the most senior African members of the Kenya Boy Scout Association during the colonial era. Trained as a teacher, after independence he entered politics and became a cabinet minister in Jomo Kenyatta's government. He was therefore a logical choice to assume the largely ceremonial role of Chief Scout Commissioner. As the leader of Kenyan scouting, he had the difficult task courting of Kenyatta. The first African ruler of Kenya initially had little love for the movement because European scout leaders had falsely portrayed him as the sinister leader of the anti-colonial Mau Mau rebellion. This 1971 article from the East African Standard shows how Nyagah successfully recast the scout movement as an African institution and a force for national, economic, and social development. In using the Swahili phrase udongo upate uli maji, which means "work the clay while it is still wet," he argued that scouting was a way to prepare Kenyan youth for the challenges of the future and citizenship in the independent Kenyan nation.
Nyahah, J.J.M. "Scouting – Helping to Prepare Leaders of Tomorrow." East African Standard. July 27, 1971. Annotated by Tim Parsons.
Primary Source Text
Scouting – Helping to Prepare Leaders of Tomorrow.
By the Kenya scouting movement’s Chief Commissioner, Mr. J.J.M. Nyagah East African Standard, 27 July 1971.
Can any country expect more from its citizens than complete loyalty and helpfulness?
Scouting tries to inculcate into the minds and souls of the young - the future citizens of any country - just these attributes. The Swahili saying udongo upate uli maji is very relevant to the aims of scouting which is the training of youth to grow up as men and leaders of character to assist in the building of their nation.
. . .
Today this world-wide movement is going through stages of use adaptation to suit each and every nation, while still remaining within the international framework of the noble ideals enunciated by the founder – the late Lord Baden Powell of Gilwell.
Incidentally scouting is African in origin, it was FOUNDED in Mafeking (Africa), NURSED in the United Kingdom, SPREAD all over the world and the founder decided to be buried in Nyeri (Kenya). Incidentally the highest qualification any scouter can attain is that of a Woodbadge. This originates from a wooden bead necklace worn by a brave African chief which Lord Baden Powell decided to use [a] symbol of scouting. It is still in use today.
Why, therefore, shouldn’t we Africans feel part and parcel [of] scouting? We should modernise and perfect it for others to learn and follow.
. . .
We are fortunate in that the President of our Kenya Boy Scouts Association is our national republic's beloved President, H.E. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, C.G.H, M.P., who in his own right is a brave warrior, hence the Chief of the Golden Heart.
How to Cite This Source
"African Scouting (20th c.)," in Children and Youth in History, Item #95, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/teaching-modules/95 (accessed November 28, 2015).
- Primary Sources
- "The Scouts' War Dance": Sir Robert Baden Powell's adaptation of a Zulu chant, c1910s [Chant]
- Organization of British Imperial Scouting [Table]
- An Appeal for African Scouts: Canon William Palmer to Imperial Scout Headquarters, May 5, 1923 [Letter]
- "A New Development in the Scout Movement in South Africa" [Article]
- Pathfinder Warrant [Official Document]
- The Scout's and King's African Rifles Uniforms [Photographs]
- Legal Protection for Scout Uniform, 1935: Tanganyika Government Ordinance [Official Document]
- A Rover Scout "Journey" [Memoir/Article]
- "The Interrelation of Colour" [Official Document]
- Mau Mau Fighters in Scout Uniforms, c. 1963 [Photograph]
- "Scouting – Helping to Prepare Leaders of Tomorrow" [Article]