The Third Baron Delamere settled in Kenya in 1901. After two failed attempts to secure land from the government, he was eventually granted 100,000 acres of land in 1904 in an area between Nakuru and Njoro, which he aptly named Equator Ranch.
The government later proceeded to set aside land for European settlement in the larger Nakuru area, Njoro, Molo, Kericho, Eldoret and Kitale, which came to be known as the “White Highlands”.
Delamere played a large part in encouraging white settlement in these areas and his friend Lord Egerton joined him in Njoro soon after World War 1.
It was for these white farmers’ children that St. Andrew’s School, Turi was established in 1931.
St. Andrew is the patron saint of the Scottish people and the feast of St. Andrew is commemorated on November 30 every year in Scotland.
The school was founded by the Levet family and taken over by Peter and Jean Lavers, popularly known as Ma and Pa. Situated near Molo town at over 8,000 feet above sea level, the school sits on a generous 300 acres of prime land, which easily replicates the climate in the Scottish Highlands.
The first enrolment comprised 15 pupils drawn from the white farming community at Molo and its environs.
In 1944, the school was burnt to the ground following a fire in the kitchen. The British colonial government gave permission for Italian prisoners of war, who were in plentiful supply at the time, to help in rebuilding the school as the estimated cost of replacement was very high. This time the school was built using stone instead of timber.
The school crest features a phoenix rising from the ashes, and an annual bonfire commemorates this episode in the school’s history.
The first African pupils were admitted in the 1970s. In 1988, a secondary school based on the IGCSE system was opened for children between the ages of 13 and 18.
Today St. Andrew’s, Turi is a large and successful boarding school providing a first-class education to children from East Africa and beyond. A college to prepare students for university was added in 2010. The school caters for about 600 students between the ages of five and 18.
Recently, the Kenya media was abuzz about an allegedly “leaked” menu from St. Andrews, which revealed that the students eat an array of expensive meals such as waffles, chipolatas and grilled tomatoes for breakfast and lasagna, meatballs, chicken drumsticks and turkey tagine with pitta bread for other meals.
To be honest, in a school where the fees range from Sh304,000 to over Sh800,000 per term one can only expect the very best facilities all round and the exceptional quality of meals comes as no surprise.
St. Andrew’s is regarded as one of the top international schools in East Africa. It is fully co-educational, and the majority of pupils are boarders. The school has an overtly Christian foundation and encourages pupils to “live and lead with integrity”.
It is one of nine schools in Kenya who are members of the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools (IAPS), the body representing the top prep schools in Britain.
The Kenyan schools form the largest IAPS group outside of Britain and, with rising numbers, are an unusual phenomenon, proving highly popular with African families as well as expatriates.
As Michael Joseph famously said, “Kenyans have peculiar habits”.
Kenya is the only former British colony to have kept such a concentration of prep schools. Could these extremely “English” schools be seen as a relic of empire? Unfortunately, the Kenyan education system is based very much on passing exams whereas the system in prep schools is more holistic.
The expanding number of prep schools in Kenya reflects the faith in the calibre of British education as well as in the principles that the prep schools instil.
It has been argued in some quarters that the environment in these high-cost schools tends to shield pupils from the harsh conditions of the real world particularly for African children who lose touch with their culture.
Parents in this case, have a huge task of filling the gap where they want their children to learn the African culture as well.
Small class sizes of not more than 26 pupils, higher teacher-student ratios, a wide range of academic and extracurricular activities and more personalised and specialised teaching are the secret to success at such schools. The holistic nature of learning helps to bring out the best in each student and not necessarily in the academic realm.
For those fortunate enough to afford the cost, there is real value for money at St. Andrew’s, Turi.