Major fall-out that led to formation of Kenton schools

Kenton schools are regarded among the top in the country. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Kenton schools are regarded among the top in the country. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Finlay Cramb, an enterprising Englishman, came to Kenya in 1920 and established a school at Lumbwa named Kenya Grange. One of his early students was Sir Wilfrid Havelock who would later become one of the last white leaders to advocate for the smooth transfer of power to an African government after independence in 1963.

To get to school, Havelock had to travel by steamer across Lake Victoria and thence by train and finally by donkey. Kenya Grange school folded after just a few years. Harold Turner, son of a British father and Swiss mother, was educated at Cheltenham and then Pembroke College, Cambridge. Turner came to Kenya soon after World War I serving as an officer of the colonial administration where he rose to the position of district commissioner Embu.

During his stay, he became fluent in the Embu language before resigning. He worked briefly for the East African Standard before trying his hand at farming where he lost money falling on such hard times that his wife had to run a boarding house to make ends meet.

Not being one to give up easily, in 1924, Finlay Cramb took over an empty building, which had been a German sanatorium situated on a saddle of Kijabe Hill, with breathtaking views over Lake Naivasha and Mount Longonot.

This was the beginning of Kenton College, a preparatory school for European boys, modelled on the British system. In the meantime, Harold Turner took an interest in education and in 1925 joined Cramb in setting up Kenton College at Kijabe.

Turner’s association with Cramb did not last very long as the two clashed as personalities. The relationship did not improve when Turner (a tennis Blue at Cambridge and winner of the Kenya Doubles championship more than once in the 1920s) drove a tennis ball into Cramb’s eye, blinding it permanently.

For the rest of his life, Cramb wore an eye patch. Turner left Cramb in 1927 to start Pembroke School in Gilgil.

Although the site of Kenton College was very picturesque, it was isolated and posed a security risk in the minds of parents. To address this problem, a new school was built in 1934 on open land of 35 acres in Kileleshwa. The school moved lock, stock and barrel to re-open its doors in January 1935 on the present site. Kenton College was the first building in the area.

Not long before, the area known as Kileleshwa had been occupied by African squatters who were growing garden produce, but the colonial administration evicted the squatters to make way for European residential settlement.

During World War II, the school was taken over initially as a military headquarters and then as a military hospital. For the duration of the war, the school was relocated to Westwood Park Hotel in what was then Ngong. The school returned to its proper home in Kileleshwa in 1946.

The founder headmaster William Jesse retired in 1947 and was replaced by Rev Cyril Birks from South Africa.

Originally built as an all boys’ boarding school of not more than 100 pupils, Kenton College continued to grow and flourish so that when Rev Birks retired in 1966 over 100 boys were being educated at Kenton.

Most of these boys continued their education in Britain at well-known public schools, many of, which established ties with Kenton. These links were developed by the new headmaster Rev Roy Stagg who ran the school for the next 14 years.

It was during this period (mid-1960s) that the first African students were admitted. The swimming pool was built, extra classrooms were constructed as the number of pupils increased. Day scholars were admitted for the first time towards the end of Rev Stagg’s tenure and as the racial character of the school changed, more pupils completed their secondary education in Kenya.

Kenton College became a trust shortly after the next headmaster Neville Usher-Wilson took over in 1980.

The first girls were admitted to Kenton in 1992. The first headmistress, Mrs Maureen Cussans, took over leadership of a fully co-educational school with of 245 pupils in 2005.

As the oldest of 10 IAPS schools in Kenya, Kenton is regarded as one of the top 500 schools worldwide. If you can afford it, Kenton offers one of the best educational facilities money can buy. Notable alumni include Gideon Moi, Jason and Martin Dunford among others.