Long and winding education journey of The Kenya High School

Kenya High School motto.  It was started in 1900  at the current site of Railways Club, Nairobi .  PHOTO | FILE
Kenya High School motto. It was started in 1900 at the current site of Railways Club, Nairobi . PHOTO | FILE  

“The purpose of history is the imaginative reconstruction of the past which is scrupulous and scientific in method but artistic in conclusion.”- Krug (1966, p. 13).

The early European explorers and missionaries generally came to the British East Africa Protectorate without their families, due to the harsh living conditions in the territory. However as the Uganda Railway opened up the hinterland, the railway workers, settlers and missionaries were encouraged to bring their wives and children along.

Upon reaching Nairobi, the Uganda Railway opened a school for the children of its white employees in 1900 in a corrugated iron shed near the railway station, at the site of the present Railway Club.

Within a short time, the school began to admit settler children including a significant number whose parents were South African.

By 1904, the school had 34 pupils under their teachers, the rather spare A.J. Turner and his wife A.M. Turner.

In 1908, the school was taken over by the government becoming a boarding school and accepting children from all over the country.

No sooner had the boarding section been opened than an outbreak of typhoid occurred in Nairobi forcing the school to close between 14th March and 27th April, 1908.

The school moved to new grounds in 1910 on Nairobi Hill, into the old European police barracks, the site of the current Nairobi Primary School. About 130 boarders were accommodated in new buildings of timber and iron sheets two miles away, by the old Buller’s camp next to Nairobi Club. This year is considered the birth year of present day Kenya High School.

In 1910, the government appointed a Board of Education but by 1918, the Nairobi Chamber of Commerce was complaining about the state of education for European children in Nairobi.

Nairobi Primary School was said to have inadequate buildings and sports facilities and lacked enough space for boarders. The governor appointed a commission to look into the requirements of the country’s education system resulting in the great expansion of European schools in the 1920s. In the meantime, African schools were left largely in the hands of missionaries.

The boys were separated from the girls in 1931, moving to the prestigious Prince of Wales School on Sclater’s Road (Waiyaki Way) where the future leaders of the country were to be moulded. The girls were not so lucky however, their accommodation comprising wooden huts on the compound of Nairobi Primary School with whom they shared facilities.

The girls’ school was named European Girls’ Secondary School, with Miss Grace Kerby, a strict disciplinarian, as the first headmistress. Staff housing was scattered in the vicinity of Protectorate Hill (Mamlaka Road).


The school has since been affectionately known as a “Boma” (enclosure) of heifers in reference to a “herd” of young girls who needed to be kept safely out of harms way of “predators”!

In 1937, the school was renamed Kenya High School. Due to safety concerns during World War 11, the boarders were evacuated to Eldoret Hotel in July 1940 where they continued their studies, returning to Nairobi a year later when the situation normalized.

By 1942, the student population had reached 150 and Miss Stott succeeded Miss Kerby as headmistress. The school had become overcrowded and lacked modern facilities creating the need for a new school in tandem with the superb facilities available for the boys.

In response, the government allocated 120 acres on Kileleshwa Hill in 1944 and a token £150 was allocated in the budget of 1945 for laying out of the grounds and commencement of building of the present school. Eventually the cost of buildings and grounds reached a sum of £700,000.

Situated on Mandera Road off Gatundu Road in Kileleshwa, Kenya High School is designed to a site plan resembling a mushroom, with the classrooms and administration block forming the stem and the dormitories forming the bloom. The chapel is centrally located symbolizing God’s central role in the school.

The buildings are constructed to an early modern design with chisel dressed stone walls under a half-round Spanish tiled roof. Floors are finished in a variety of terazzo, parquet and cement screed. Doors are made of highly polished timber panels while windows are glazed in steel casements.

Extra lighting is provided by fixed glazed casements held in arched frames with ornamental brick infilling and rose windows. The buildings and the school grounds are in an excellent state of repair and decoration.

First African girl

The first African girl to be admitted in Kenya High School was Anne Mithamo in 1961, just before Miss Stott retired in 1963 handing over to Miss Barnes. The first African headmistress was Mrs. Rose Kariuki who took over from Miss Barnes in January 1977 before handing over to Mrs. Wanjohi shortly thereafter in July 1977.

The current principal is Mrs. Flora Mulatya.

It is remarkable that during the school’s existence of more than 100 years it has had only seven headmistresses. During my visit, I had the pleasure to meet the school secretary, Mrs. Rebecca Kithyoma, who has served in that position since 1971 and shows no hint of retiring soon!

Although Kenya High School is a government school, it is backed by a major mainstream faith based organisation and the school is founded on deep Christian values.

The school has maintained high standards of academic and disciplinary excellence over time. Performance in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination has been consistent over the years with the school being placed second in the 2016 exams, scoring a mean of 9.964.

Students are moulded holistically to build the overall character of the child. Each house has a teacher and matron living within the building to create a family environment and it is believed that this contributes to the high level of confidence and discipline.

The school has a Board of Management, which has steered it through difficult times supported by the PTA and hard working teachers.

The author is a retired banker and motorcycle enthusiast.