Peter C. Ojiambo

Peter Ojiambo
  • Associate Professor
  • African and African American Studies

Contact Info

Bailey Hall 12F
1440 Jayhawk Boulevard
Lawrence, KS 66045


Peter Ojiambo is an Associate Professor in the Department of African & African-American Studies and the former Faculty Associate Director of the Kansas African Studies Center. His scholarship focuses on African education, African educational biographies, non-Western educational thought, and educational leadership studies. His deep research experience in East Africa has led to publications about the Starehe Boys Center and School of Kenya. Dr. Ojiambo teaches Kiswahili and has developed a Kiswahili teaching website. He is a Co-Director of the first-ever Humanities Lab at KU, known as colLAB.


My field of study is educational foundations and the sub-field is educational leadership. In my research, I examine African-centered educational biographies and how they help us understand the historical, social, political and economic forces that have shaped Africa's educational systems. This is an under-researched area both on the African continent and globally. My writings have centered on Starehe Boys Centre and School, a leading Kenyan high school and the innovative leadership styles of its founders: Geoffrey Griffin and Joseph Gikubu.

My research work has produced two published books, nine articles, eight are published and one is ready for submission and five book chapters, four are published and one is in press. My first book, Teaching beyond Teaching: Dr. Geoffrey William Griffin and Starehe Boys Centre and School, VDM Verlag, 2008, is the first seminal work that examines Griffin's 53 years contributions to Kenyan education. Few educational leaders on the African continent and globally have had long engagement in educational leadership like him.

My second book, is an interdisciplinary edited volume, titled "Perspectives on Empowering Education." It is a continuation of my work in the first book. It explores global educational thoughts on empowerment. In it, I demonstrate how Starehe Boys Centre and School leaders have created a culture that allows the potential of every student to develop. My third book, "Called to Educate: The Story of Joseph Gikubu and Starehe Boys Centre and School, which is nearing completion, builds on my first two works.

My publications address specific leadership thoughts that the educational leaders I have studied espouse. The following are the details of my publications. The first essay is a book chapter entitled "Making Poverty Invisible: A Case Study of Starehe Boys Centre and School, Kenya." It argues that good educational leadership can address poverty factors that hinder educational progress. The second essay is an article, entitled "Education as a Relational Process: A Case Study of Starehe Boys Centre and School, Kenya." It demonstrates that when relations are at the center of school leadership they alleviate student strikes. The third essay is an article, titled "Educational Leadership with a Difference: A Case Study of Starehe Boys Centre and School, Kenya." It contends that an educational leadership that is transformational is holistic and progressive. The fourth article entitled "Partnering in School Leadership: Lessons from Starehe Boys Centre and School, Kenya", accentuates that involving students in school management should be at the core of educational leadership.

The fifth article, "Wholistic and Service-Centered Education: Emerging Educational lessons from Starehe Boys Centre and School," illustrates the power of holistic education in creating an engaged citizenry. The sixth essay is a book chapter, entitled "Transformative Leadership at Starehe Boys Centre and School in Kenya." It argues that skilled citizenry can be nurtured in schools when school leadership is change-centered. The seventh essay is a book chapter, entitled "Making Schools Democratic and Empowering Public Spheres: A Case Study of Starehe Boys Centre and School, Baraza System." It demonstrates that the more democratic spaces a school provides, the greater it's learning outcomes. The eighth essay is also a book chapter, "Empowerment Brewed in the African Pot for Education, Governance and Democracy: A Concoction of the Old and New." It underscores the significance of African indigenous education to contemporary African educational leadership. The ninth essay, is an article entitled, "Education as a Spiritual Journey: The Hidden Story behind the Evolution and Growth of Starehe Boys Centre and School, Kenya." It argues that the synergy between educational leadership and spirituality creates space for students' fullness of being and thought. The tenth essay is an article, entitled "Gift of Education: Joseph Gikubu and the Development of Kenyan Youth Education, 1957 to Present." It examines Joseph Gikubu's 55 years contributions to Kenyan education. The eleventh essay is an article, entitled "Care Theory Comes Alive in an African School: Starehe Boys Centre and School." It demonstrates the transformative power that a school can witness if its leadership is care-centered. The twelfth essay is an article, entitled "Nurturing Global Education at High School Level: Lessons from Starehe Boys Centre and School, Kenya." It examines learning outcomes that emerge from an educational leadership that is global.

Beyond these publications, there is one forthcoming book chapter, entitled "Geoffrey Griffin and the Development of the National Youth Service in Kenya, 1964 to 1988." It examines Griffin's contributions to Kenya's national development. Apart from this work, I have one manuscript that is ready for submission, titled "Cementing the Ground for Kenya's Education: The Work of Carey Francis at Maseno School, 1928 to 1940."It examines Carey Francis, a pioneer Kenyan educator contributions to Kenyan education.

Over the next five years, I will complete my third book earlier mentioned, after which, I will build on my previous African educational biographical work but with a new focus on "The Role of Women Educators in the Growth of Kenyan Education." From my preliminary research, it is evident that there is a dearth of scholarship in this area. To jumpstart the process, I have begun examining the works of Dr. Eddah Gachukia and her contributions to Kenyan education.

Although many of my publications are in education, I plan to strengthen my research in African languages as a follow up to my below cited publication and my current engagement in the field. I plan to write a book that will address the current teaching pedagogical needs in Elementary Kiswahili. Currently, I have developed an in-depth course pack that addresses these needs. Together these two projects will enable me to keep a balance of my research and instructional areas.

I have engaged in one collaborative research project that has resulted in a published article "Beyond Methods Course: Using Exploratory Practice for Graduate Student Teacher Development." It discusses effective ways of creating a language student teacher program. In the research, I was responsible for the literature review and data analysis. We all co-authored the chapter.

Research interests:

  • African Education
  • Non-Western Educational Thought
  • Global and International Education
  • Comparative Cultures and Education
  • Education, Poverty and Development in Africa
  • Education and Democracy in Africa
  • Educational Leadership Studies
  • Qualitative Educational Biographical Research
  • Educational Critical theory
  • African Languages ( Kiswahili Language and Literature).


I view classroom teaching as the heart and soul of any university and the axis from which other components such as research and service emerge. I have great love and passion for teaching. I strive to bring the same spirit to all the courses I teach such as Kiswahili language, Language and Society, and Comparative Cultures and Education in Africa. In my teaching, I am guided by the following concepts: instructor in-depth preparation, enthusiasm and engagement, collaborative learning between students and the instructor, students' engagement in learning, continuous reinforcement and careful assessment of student learning, creativity and multiple teaching approaches. I believe in creating a dynamic and critical learning community. Through this approach both the teacher and the learner are actively engaged in the process and know that the success and failure of learning depends on their collective effort. The approach has provided a collaborative learning effort in my classes that over the years has created high energy and interest. Through this approach, I have been amazed to see students' transformation with regard to their mastery of course content. I have also tried to encourage creativity and multiple learning approaches. As much as this approach is demanding in terms of lesson preparation, I find it rewarding because it brings freshness to learning. I have found with more creativity, engagement and variety in the classroom, the students have excelled in their understanding and performance.

These approaches have enabled my students to achieve my course goals for instance in Kiswahili such as understanding the relevance of studying Kiswahili, various components of Kiswahili language and culture, and how to compare Kiswahili language and culture to their own experiences. Using an engaged learning approach, and a variety of teaching approaches such as dialogues, skits, films, web materials, and portfolios, I create space for students to be actively involved in every lesson and to critically interrogate the components I teach. I do this by structuring learning activities that permit integrative learning where students have the opportunity to practice the main lessons vocabularies and apply them to their daily conversations, learn cultural relevance of the topics, draw global and cultural comparisons, and practice their reading and writing skills. I try to emphasize that learning a language is not about cramming various vocabularies for examination purposes, rather it is about mastering and using language creatively. High oral proficiency of my students at the end of each academic year has demonstrated that this is possible.

In order to enable my students to achieve the earlier mentioned goals, I organize materials and activities in a clear sequence where topics are linked in terms of content and oral communication. To attain this, I use back and forth question and answer review activities. My students have responded well to this approach since it reinforces their learning on a continuous basis. Because of its daily study-review strategy, the approach has enhanced my students' performance in both written and oral examinations. To assess the achievement of my course goals, I use a variety of tools. For the written component I use weekly assignments, quizzes, mid and end-term written examinations and portfolios. For the oral components, I use daily conversations, mid and end-term oral examinations, dialogues, and skits.

From my language teaching experiences, I have recognized that students learn when they are interested in the course, are taught well, know the teacher cares about their learning, and when a collaborative learning community is forged. I have also realized that creating opportunities for students to participate in learning is a powerful means to enriching the course. It provides avenues for students to offer ideas that can strengthen the course. Several creative assessment tools that have enhanced my teaching, such as portfolios or varied oral assessments, have emanated from this collaborative approach. The approach has enabled my course quality, teaching performance and student evaluations to constantly improve and to remain above a 4.5 average. Further, from student evaluations, I have been able to revise my course content, texts and teaching approaches. Overall, I have come to understand that teaching is a complex journey. Success in teaching requires ingenuity, motivation and risk-taking with new methods, philosophies and assessment.

Teaching interests:

  • African Education
  • Non-Western Educational Thought
  • Global and International Education
  • Comparative Cultures and Education
  • Education, Poverty and Development in Africa
  • Education and Democracy in Africa
  • Educational Leadership Studies
  • Qualitative Educational Biographical Research
  • Educational Critical theory
  • African Languages (Kiswahili Language and Literature)


I view service as a vital component of my work and a piece that strongly complements and extends my teaching and research activities. I argue that a scholar who is serious in his or her academic calling must actively engage in service at multiple levels pertaining to his or her scholarship, instructional expertise and university mission. It is this wide view of the significance of service that has seen me engage in a wide range of service. The following are the details of the various service activities in which I have participated.

Departmental Service

At the departmental level, I have rendered a variety of service. In the last five years, I have served as the African Languages Coordinator. In this position, I oversee instructional activities of the five African languages we offer in the department. My duties include supervision of Graduate Teaching Assistants and lecturer's language instruction and evaluation, assisting in Foreign Language Fellowships (FLAS) marketing and assessments, assisting in the hiring of lecturers and conducting language pedagogy and assessment workshops. Within the department, I also serve on the Annual Faculty Evaluations Committee (2010-2015). The committee evaluates the yearly performance of faculty members. In addition to this committee, I also serve on the Major Fairs Committee (2010-2015). The committee promotes various majors and minors that are offered in our department and their career prospects. Further, I also serve as the coordinator of the weekly African language tables (2010-2015). The tables provide space for students to practice their language skills. In addition, I have also served on the curriculum committee (2010-2013). The committee oversees the introduction and approval of new courses. Further, I have also served on three search committees for faculty positions. Lastly, I have also served as the faculty ambassador to the University's Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE- 2010-2013). The work entailed disseminating information to the faculty on various CTE activities. Much of my departmental service affirms the role of service in advancing my instructional expertise and the university mission.

College Level Service

At the College level, I have served on various committees. I serve as the Kansas African Studies Center Faculty Associate Director (2015-2016). In this role, I provide creative leadership on the broader intellectual mission of the center. Additionally, I serve on the Chancellor's Doctoral Fellowship Committee (2015-2017). The committee assesses applications of various doctoral students who apply for the fellowship. I also serve on the Committee on Graduate Studies (2014-2017). The committee approves all the new or revised degree programs and it monitors the academic progress of graduate students. Currently, I am also a member on the Executive Committee of School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures (SLLC-2014-2015). The committee advises SLLC on its various programs and partnerships. Further, I also served as a member on the subcommittee for the SLLC (2013-2014). The sub-committee spearheaded the formation of SLLC, designed its programs and administrative structure. Additionally, I also serve on the Executive Committee of the Kansas African Studies Center (KASC- 2010-2015). The committee formulates the vision and strategic plan of KASC. I also serve as a member on KASC FLAS committee (2010-2015). The committee advertises various African languages offered in AAAS and the available funding opportunities. I also assist in the writing of references to various FLAS applicants and reviewing of application files. Other service activities that I am involved in at the College level pertain to Language Placement Testing. In this service, I coordinate the taking of exams and appropriate actions based on exam results i.e. placement levels and language waivers. Further, I also coordinate and administer Pre and Post-FLAS proficiency assessments at the beginning and at the end of each academic year. At the College level I have served on committees that demand my scholarly input, instructional expertise and those that advance the university mission.

University Level Service

At the University level, I serve on several committees. Last year, I served as an external committee member for the faculty hire position in Special Education (2014-2015). Currently, I am the advisor to the Model United Nations the University of Kansas chapter (2010-2015). This is an undergraduate student program that provides students with an international understanding of the world. Finally, I also advise the University's Dondori Children's Kenya Project (2010-2015). This is a student charity that has educational programs in Kenya.

Professional Service Outside the University

Professionally, outside the University, I have served as an executive committee member on Mid-America Alliance for African Studies (2010-2014). The organization provides a forum for Africanists in the middle of U.S to meet regionally through conferences. On this committee, I assisted with conference planning. At the local level, I have served as a professional expert on African Studies matters. For instance, I was a panel discussant on a film entitled "God Loves Uganda" at Plymouth United Church of Christ, in Lawrence. At the regional level, I was also a panelist on "Foreign Language Teaching at the University of Kansas," that was held at Johnson County Community College. As a panelist, I discussed various African languages we offer, their significance and funding opportunities. Additionally, I gave a talk entitled "African Languages and Culture" at Washburn High School. The talk centered on African languages offered at the University of Kansas.

At the national level, I serve as a reviewer for Kiswahili Study Abroad, Fulbright-Hays Program (2015-2018). I assist in evaluating all the applications for the program. Internationally, I also serve as an executive board member on International Association of African Educators (2014-2015). On the board, I assist with conference planning and funding. I co-chaired its 2015 conference. Moreover, I also serve as a member on the Executive Committee of African Languages Teachers Association (2010-2015). On the committee, I assist with conference planning and training. Beyond these three bodies, I also serve as a reviewer for the following journals: African Languages Teachers Association; World Universities Forum; International Learning and Teacher Education. As a reviewer, I assess the quality of papers submitted and their suitability to the given journal.