KIEREINI: A nostalgic journey into Jamhuri High School’s over century-old history


The entrance way and its imposing clock tower and (top) view of school building from the gate. PHOTO | COURTESY

Out of a total 32,000 Indian railway workers imported mostly from Punjab, 6,700 of them opted to remain in Kenya after completion of the railway in 1902, bringing their families along.

Although there was already a nascent Indian community consisting largely of traders along the Indian Ocean coastline, the sudden influx of these Indian families created a new dynamic for the colonial administration particularly as they were here at the behest of the British government, strictly speaking.

The problem of providing education for a sizable number of school age Indian children had to be addressed by the administration.

Jamhuri High School had its beginnings as a nursery school for Indian children on Whitehouse Road (current Haile Selassie Road) consisting of bandas and tin-roof shacks near the Nairobi Railway Station in 1904.

In 1906, it was known as the Railway Educational Centre.

By 1911, there were about 11,000 Indians living in Kenya compared to only 3,000 Europeans. Education, health and other social amenities were already segregated amongst Europeans, Indians and Africans; in that pecking order.

As the development of downtown Nairobi intensified and the student population expanded, the school relocated to the present site in Ngara, on Limuru Road on February 14, 1928 and was renamed Government Indian High School, admitting only boys.

The original double-storey buildings are designed to a neo-classical architectural style with a site plan enclosing a quadrangle with colonnaded, covered walkways.

The entrance way is imposing and features a clock tower.

Walls are built of smooth rendered stone painted a brilliant white beneath a Mangalore tiled roof.

Doors are made of heavy panelled timber supported in arched frames while windows are glazed in standard steel casements. Floors are finished in a variety of granite, terrazzo and parquet.

One cannot help but notice the uncanny resemblance of this design to that of Nairobi School, which was built at the same time.

Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, the third son of King George V and Queen Mary, left England in September 1928 to shoot big game in Africa with his elder brother Edward, Prince of Wales.

While staying in Nairobi, Henry met Beryl Markham, the pioneer aviator and socialite. Henry and Beryl had a brief, but openly public affair much to the chagrin of the Royal Court.

The King stepped in and quickly put a stop to the embarrassing affair by sending the young prince on a series of overseas tours, safely out of harm’s way.

Returning to Kenya in 1950, married and more circumspect (Beryl did make an attempt to rekindle the affair), Henry took an interest in promoting the school.

In honour of this kind gesture the school was renamed Duke of Gloucester in 1953. The Duke continued to support the school and was the guest of honour when a new swimming pool was opened in 1962.

A year earlier in 1961 an independently managed hostel was built to accommodate 60 students.

After Kenya gained independence in 1963 the school was, again, renamed Jamhuri High School at a ceremony in 1968 presided over by Dr Julius G. Kiano, then Minister for Education.

“Jamhuri” means republic in Kiswahili.

The school became multiracial after Independence admitting the first African students soon thereafter.

In its glory days, the school performed well in academics and I remember they were outstanding in hockey and cricket whenever we played against them during my time at Alliance High School.

Notable Alumni

As the school expanded the government grant proved to be insufficient to meet its financial needs resulting in a decline in academic performance.

In January 1997, a group of old boys registered the Jamhuri High School Asian Foundation, a not- for- profit organisation to help raise funds for the school.

This effort has provided the school with the necessary infrastructure to cope and regain some of its former glory in academic performance.

Today, Jamhuri High School is the second oldest school in Nairobi and the biggest day secondary school countrywide. It is popularly known as ”Jamuu” or by the older nickname “Dukes”.

Notable alumni include former Chief Justice the late Majid Cockar, former and first judge of the Industrial Court Justice Saeed Rahman Cockar, former East African Breweries Limited managing director Gerald Mahinda, veteran journalist Salim Lone, television anchor Johnson Mwakazi, Bidco Group chief executive officer Vimal Shah, the late real estate agent Jayant Ruparel and award- winning film producer and humanitarian photographer John Wambugu.