Over the decades, millions of Kenyans have attended the country’s premier high schools, but very few ever understand the founding history of the institutions.
From the Starehe Boys Center in Nairobi to Allidina Visram in Mombasa, the institutions known as the cradle of educational success have unique stories born from the vision of their founders.
Here are five renowned high school founders in Kenya
1. Star Marriage Boys Center
Entrance to Starehe Boys High School
Established in 1959, Starehe Boys Center is one of the top rated high schools in Kenya with enviable alumni.
The facility was founded by a young civil servant, Dr. Geoffrey Griffin, who was then trying to raise funds for a private company to help homeless or needy boys.
“On the tiny compound of Starehe, two cabins were erected in July 1959 to serve as dormitories for the first orphans brought in from the streets,” reads part of the description on the Starehe Boys Center website.
Over the years the school expanded and began accommodating poor rural and urban students and Griffin was awarded the Milele Prize by the Kenya National Human Rights Association.
During the founding process, Griffin was assisted by Joseph Gikubu and Geoffrey Geturo.
2. Mangu High School
Mang’u High School administration block.
Mang’u High School was founded in 1925, years after the arrival of a religious sect identified as the Holy Spirit Fathers and settling in Kabaa. The group had moved to a 5-acre property in Kabaa, but left the site shortly thereafter.
Michael Joseph Witte, a Dutch priest in the Catholic Church, was running the Central School for Catechists back in 1923 and was considering expanding it, so he moved to Kabaa. Initial suggestions were that the school should be moved to either Mang’u or Riruta.
He founded an elementary school in Kabaa with 35 students and soon after that the facility was expanded to 145 students in 1928. Witte served at the facility and left in 1934 to go home on leave.
Around the same time, the Ministry of Education requested that Kabaa be decentralized, with the secondary school operations branch to be moved to another center. After looking around, the high school was moved to Mang’u Mission Land in 1939.
3. Lenana High School
A signage showing Lenana High School.
Lenana High School was founded by Philip Mitchell, a colonial administrator who had served as governor of Uganda, Fiji and Kenya.
He founded the institution in 1949 after being appointed governor of Kenya in 1944, a post he held until 1952. At that time the school was known as the Duke of York.
The institution was renamed Lenana High School in 1969, after Maasai spiritual leader Laibon Lenana, who was at the center of the conflict with the British imperialists.
The school’s first Kenyan principal was James Kamunge.
4. Maranda High School
Entrance to Maranda High School.
For years, Maranda High School was known for its excellence in national exams, but very few people know the story behind its founding.
The Siaya County institution was founded in 1919 by a theology teacher, Shadrack Osewe Agot, in Kapiyo Village, Bondo County.
Osewe asked former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s grandfather for land to build the iconic institution.
It started with his home, then a church, before slowly morphing into an elementary school in 1926. In 1927 it was converted into a boarding school.
5. Allidina Visram High School
A building of Allidina Visram High School in Mombasa.
In 1923, Allidina Visram High School, one of the most famous in the coastal region, opened after years of battling with superstition during its construction.
Sheth Abdul Rasul, the founder, established the institution and named it after his merchant father, Sheth Allidina Visram.
“The plan of the school was drawn up in 1918 and Mr. Khaki Shivji, a contractor, began the excavation, but some difficulties were encountered,” said Mr. Shem Raphael, head of Fort Jesus’ education department.
“Superstitious workers claimed that the spirits of the deceased were angry because they were being disturbed. So Swahili spirit guardians were consulted and they immediately requested offerings,” Rasul said nation.
In 1985 it was converted into an all-boys school.