How State House Girls School evolved from a whites-only institution

State House Girls School. FILE PHOTO | NMG
State House Girls School. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

By 1939, the European population in Kenya stood at about 21,000 while the African population was estimated at 4.5 million, in a paradox the historian Levi Izuakor calls “The Un-paramount African Paramountcy”. In spite of the paucity of settler occupation, the doctrine of European paramountcy remained the cornerstone of the colonial policy in the country.

The settlers themselves, conscious that they enjoyed the support of the colonial government, nursed the ambition of establishing “a new, loyal white dominion”.

Although the Devonshire White Paper of 1923 sought to swing the pendulum of paramountcy from European to African, for all intents and purposes, it remained a dead letter. The status quo remained largely untouched especially, as the settlers insisted that Europeans “must remain an oligarchy as regards the coexistent subject races”.

In 1942, European education was made compulsory by the government and this led to increased enrolment in existing schools and demand for more schools. A fresh wave of European settlement was witnessed immediately after the end of World War 11 putting further pressure on existing facilities.

Accommodation at Prince of Wales School was expanded between 1943 and 1945 to meet the growing demand. In 1944, a new site of 120 acres was allocated in Kileleshwa for relocation of a bigger Kenya High School for girls.

When Sir Philip Mitchell was governor (1944-52), he personally supervised the design and construction of the quintessential school for European boys, Duke of York School.

The boys were accommodated briefly at Government House while awaiting completion of the school, courtesy of the governor in 1948.

Despite the glaring disparity of population-to-schools between the Africans and Europeans, the investment in European schools continued to outstrip that of Africans.

By 1955, the Mau Mau insurgency had been contained by British forces renewing hope among the settlers.

It is against this backdrop that the New Girls’ Secondary School was founded in 1954 on the site of what used to be Government European Hospital opposite Government House and adjacent to Nairobi Primary School. The Government European Hospital eventually transformed into what is today Nairobi Hospital.

What was left of the hospital served as a European dispensary. The main hospital building became the administration block while the Sisters’ Mess, adjacent to State House, is the teachers’ housing.
Towards the end of 1955, all the girls, the headmistress and some equipment were moved to a new school in Eldoret, Highlands School (now Moi Girls’ High School).

Starting 1956, a new student body comprising girls and boys was established, and the school was renamed Delamere High School, after the pioneer settler, Lord Delamere. It was intended to cater for those European boys and girls who could not make it to Prince of Wales, Duke of York and Kenya High School.

The school was once again split into two in 1958 with the boys relocating to a new school known as Delamere Boys’ High School (today’s Upper Hill High School) and the girls remaining behind in Delamere Girls’ High School.

From the outset Delamere Girls’ High School, a day school, was the preserve of European girls but with the struggle for independence gaining momentum in the late 1950s it was clear the status quo was going to change.

The first two Asian girls, Parviz Shirin Manji and Gwaderi Shwamshad were admitted in 1962. Jessica Ngoya and Wamaitha Jessica Philomena, the first African girls, were admitted in 1964. Jessica went on to become the first African prefect in the school in 1965 and eventually the first African head girl in 1966.

A new school hall and kitchen were opened in 1964 by Miss Margaret Kenyatta, daughter of the first president of Kenya while a beautiful swimming pool was built in 1968 for the students.

Mrs M.W. Maina was the first African headmistress, taking over from Miss McDonald in the late 1960s.

The school became a fully government maintained institution when the Kenya Government took over management from the board of governors in 1973.

In 1985, the first boarding hostel with a capacity of 360 students was completed with the assistance of then President Daniel arap Moi. A further boarding hostel and a modern library were added in 2004 to mark the school’s Golden Jubilee.

Notable alumni include, Lucy Thande, Joyce Kiereini, Anne Mwikali, Emma Mabachi, among others.