Prison Conversation That Birthed Starehe Boys Centre

  • Sports and culture CS Amina Mohamed during a visit at Starehe Boys' Centre in November 2018
    Sports and culture CS Amina Mohamed during a visit at Starehe Boys' Centre in November 2018
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  • The institution, known for being a centre of excellence, is famed for having moulded key personalities in the country.

    The school traces its roots to Wamumu Prison in Mwea, Kirinyaga County that acted as a detention centre for notorious criminals, where the idea of its conception saw the light of the day.

    In an article by the Daily Nation published in May 2015, Geoffrey Griffin, Geoffrey Geturo and Joseph Gikubu were the originators of the idea to form Starehe Boys Centre in 1959.

    Starehe Boys' Centre Founder Dr. Geoffrey Griffin
    Starehe Boys' Centre Founder Dr. Geoffrey Griffin
    Daily Nation

    Gikubu and Geturo were inmates at Wamumu Prison after being charged and jailed for active participation in the armed struggle for independence against colonialists.

    Gikubu had just been transferred to Wamumu from Manyani and his charges included support for the Mau Mau war by running errands for fighters at the edge of the Nyandarua-Kereita forest.

    Geoffrey Griffin, who was born on June 13, 1933, in Eldoret to an English police officer who had come to serve in Kenya in 1919 and an English mother born in India, was by then an educationist who ran various programs to educate poor children.

    Griffins earlier attended Kitale Primary School and then proceeded to Nairobi School, formerly known as Prince of Wales School.

    When the State of Emergency was declared in October 1952, Griffin was serving as an officer in the Kenya Police Special Reserve and had just completed his training.

    He was later commissioned into the 3rd Kings African Rifles as a second lieutenant but after about one year, Griffin was dissatisfied by the brutality of the colonial masters where he reportedly sympathised with the African victims who were treated as radical rebels.

    This resulted in his resignation and started the humanitarian work that eventually led him to different prisons among them Wamumu.

    In 1955, Griffin identified over 1,000 children who were 16 years old and less who were transferred to Wamumu Approved School and Youth Camp where he was able to apply for a chance to interact with them.

    He later grew to be the head at the prison where he neutralised the hard stance on prisoners, ostensibly reducing the number of armed policemen manning the facility and making the institution a better place for the prisoners.

    In 1959, Griffin conceived the idea of a home which would help establish a learning place for young children.

    He persuaded the two inmates- Geoffrey Getumo Gatama and Joseph Gikubu to join him and together, they agreed on forming the Starehe Boys Centre.

    Within no time, the school became a curious mix of a rehabilitation camp and a public school.

    Unlike other learning institutions by then, Starehe became unique, known for the scout troops, opportunities for social service and the famous marching band which became pillars of the school’s ethos from the very beginning.

    Dr. Griffin passed on in June 2005 whereas Gakubu passed on in 2015 after a long illness.

    Starehe Boys' Centre co-founder Joseph Kamiru Gikubu in a past media interview
    Starehe Boys' Centre co-founder Joseph Kamiru Gikubu in a past media interview
    Daily Nation