Little-Known Founders of Schools that Top KCSE

Entrance to Starehe Boys Center (left) and Maranda High School.
Entrance to Starehe Boys Center (left) and Maranda High School.

Over the decades, millions of Kenyans have gone through the country's leading high schools but very few ever comprehend the institutions' founding story.

From Starehe Boys Centre in Nairobi to Mombasa's Allidina Visram, the institutions, which are known as the cradle of educational success, have unique stories that originated from their founders' vision.

Here are five prestigious high school founders in Kenya

1. Starehe Boys Centre

Entrance to Starehe Noys High School
Entrance to Starehe Boys High School

Founded in 1959, Starehe Boys Centre is one of the highest-rated high schools in Kenya with an enviable alumni.

The institution was founded by a young civil servant, Dr. Geoffrey Griffin who, at the time, sought to raise funds for a private venture to help boys who were homeless or needy.

"It was on the tiny Starehe site that two huts were erected in July 1959 to serve as dormitories for the first waifs to be brought in from the streets," reads part of its description on Starehe Boys Centre website.

Over the years, the school expanded and began accepting poor students from both the rural and urban areas and Griffin was awarded the Milele award by the Kenya National Human Rights Association.

During the founding process, Griffin was assisted by Joseph Gikubu and Geoffrey Geturo.

2. Mang'u High School

Mang'u High School Administration Block.
Mang'u High School Administration Block.

Mang'u High School was founded in 1925, years after the arrival of a religious sect identified as the Holy Ghost Fathers who settled in Kabaa. The group had moved to Kabaa on a 5-acre parcel but abandoned the site shortly after. 

Michael Joseph Witte, a Dutch Priest in the Catholic Church, was at the time running the Central School for Catechists in 1923 and contemplated expanding it so he moved to Kabaa. Initial suggestions were for the school to transfer to either Mang'u or Riruta.

He set up a primary school at Kabaa with 35 pupils and soon after, the institution expanded to 145 pupils in 1928. Witte served at the institution and departed in 1934 to proceed home on leave.

At around the same time, the Department of Education requested that Kabaa be decentralised where the secondary school arm of operations be transferred to another centre. After scouting around, the high school was moved to Mang'u mission land in 1939.

3. Lenana High School

A signage showing Lenana High School
A signage showing Lenana High School.

Lenana High School was founded by Philip Mitchell who was a colonial administrator and had served as the Governor of Uganda, Fiji and Kenya.

He founded the institution in 1949 after he was appointed to be the Governor of Kenya in 1944, a role he held till 1952. At the time, the school was known as the Duke of York. 

The institution was renamed Lenana High School in 1969 after the Maasai spiritual leader Laibon Lenana who was at the centre of the conflict with the British Imperialists.

The first Kenyan principal of the school was James Kamunge.

4. Maranda High School

Entrance to Maranda High School
Entrance to Maranda High School.
The Standard

For years, Maranda High School was known for its stellar performance in the national examinations but very few people know the story behind its founding.

The institution, located in Siaya County, was founded in 1919 by a divinity teacher, Shadrack Osewe Agot, at Kapiyo village in Bondo District.

Osewe approached former Prime Minister Raila Odinga's grandfather for land to set up the iconic institution.

It started with his residential house, then a church, before slowly morphing into an elementary institution in 1926. It was converted into a boarding school in 1927. 

5. Allidina Visram High School

A building at Allidina Visram High School in Mombasa
A building at Allidina Visram High School in Mombasa.

In 1923, the Allidina Visram High School, one of the most iconic in the Coast Region was opened after years of struggle with superstitious beliefs during its construction.

Sheth Abdul Rasul, the founder, set up the institution and named it after his merchant father Sheth Allidina Visram.

“The school’s plan was designed in 1918 and Mr Khaki Shivji, a contractor, began excavation, but some difficulties arose,” said Mr Shem Raphael, head of education at Fort Jesus.

“Superstitious workers claimed that the spirits of the deceased were angry for being disturbed. So, Swahili custodians of the spirits were consulted and they promptly called for offerings,” Rasul told Nation.

It was converted into a boys-only school in 1985.