He went to the Kaguma Government School, the renowned Alliance High School and Makerere University. From 1948 to 1956 he continued his studies in the United States, gaining the highest academic qualifications. He got a BA in Economics at Antioch College; an MA in Political Science at Stanford University and a PhD in Political Science at California University.
In September 1956 he returned home and became the first African lecturer at the Royal Technical College, Nairobi, teaching economics. He was an adviser to the first African elected members and followed them into full-time politics in 1958 when the Lyttelton constitution created a further six African seats. He fought Central Province South against the veteran politician Eluid Mathu and defeated him.
He became a close associate of Tom Mboya, using his American contacts to help organise Kikuyu scholarships to American universities. Not directly involved in the bitter personality quarrels between Mboya and Oginga Odinga he stayed with the radical African members and was appointed chairman of the Kenya Independence Movement in opposition to the moderate Kenya National Party. From this he progressed naturally to a leading position in the Kenya African National Union.
He dismayed his more extreme colleagues by accepting one of the three new ministeries in the pre-independence cabinet of 1960, becoming Minister for Commerce and Industry. He triumphed in the 1961 elections in his native Fort Hall constituency and resigned his ministry immediately in protest against the continued detention of Kenyatta. He was reappointed to the same ministry in the 1963 independence cabinet and has held ministerial office ever since.
His reshuffle to Minister of Labour came in 1965, followed in January 1968 to Minister for Education and in December 1969 to Minister for Local Government. These changes show that he has found his level as a minister, but can scarcely be taken as promotion in the power hierarchy.
Before leaving Kenya for the US, Kiano was aware of the political situation (colonialism) and the need for educated and non-educated Kenyans to join hands in the liberation struggle. Kiano, who stayed for eight years in the US studying economics and political science, got a university fellowship from Stanford University to study political science in 1953. The desire to free Kenya from the yoke of colonialism had been planted in him by African soldiers returning home from the Second World War in 1945 when Kiano was in high school.