Saturday, June 30, 2007

Starehe Boys Secondary School

The front entrance gate at Starehe Boys

On my last visit to Nairobi, I had the opportunity to visit Sr. Frances, a Sister of Notre Dame, who teaches at Starehe Boys Secondary School. I spent the afternoon with her and she gave me the grand tour.

Starehe (STAR-A-HE) means "tranquility" in Swahili. Starehe Boys is Kenya’s leading boys’ secondary school. It has been a “Top Ten” School since 1975. For the past ten years Starehe has ranked consistently as Kenya’s Best National School and takes more students to local universities than any other school in the country. It’s unfailing record for excellence has attracted the attention of many celebrities from around the world, including Muhammad Ali. Starehe's Music program is the best in the country and it’s marching band is well known in Kenya and has performed before Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

The founders of Starehe Boys L to R, Geoffrey Geturo, Joseph Gikubu, and Dr. Geoffrey Griffin

The original two tin huts built in 1959 still stand on the school grounds

Muhammad Ali's visit to Starehe

The school’s founder, Dr. Geoffrey Griffin, assisted by co-founders Joseph Gikubu and Geoffrey Geturo, had a vision for a school that helped to educate the gifted, but poor boys of Kenya. Dr. Griffin was known for his charismatic personality and his ability to persuade others to donate to his cause. In 1959, with funding granted by Kenya Shell & British Petroleum, Starehe began with only 17 boys, housed in two small tin huts. Since then the school has grown and gained much respect for it's commitment to educating the poor. On the day I had visited, 12,456 boys had come to the school and with land donated by the Government of Kenya, the grounds had expanded to 48 acres.

The office of the President of Starehe is full of awards for excellence in education

The kitchen prepares meals for over 1,000 students daily

Most students receive free healthcare from the Starehe's on-site hospital

Seventy percent of the students, which come from every area of Kenya, are granted a completely free education and healthcare at the schools on-site hospital by private and corporate donation. The other thirty-percent pay school fees which are based on their performance on the examination for the Kenya Certificate of Primary.

The chapel at Starehe

The main area in the chapel is set up for Protestant worship

This area of the chapel is set up for Catholic worship

The founder, Dr. Geoffrey Griffin, is buried in the floor of the chapel

The mosque at Starehe

Starehe accepts boys of any religious beliefs and brings them up in the precepts of those beliefs. At the daily assembly in the Hall, different groups take turns to present a reading, a hymn and a prayer. Sunday worship takes place in the Chapel which originally was used as a lecture hall. The school has Catholic and Protestant Chaplains on Staff, so all needs from baptism to a funeral can be met. Many Old Boys return to marry in the Chapel. Starehe also possesses what is probably the most beautiful small mosque in the country, serving Muslim boys.

The Starehe school badge

The Starehe’s vision and tradition of excellence are embodied in the school badge which is displayed at the entrance to the school’s main Hall. The silver griffin head represents the founding director of Starehe, Dr. Geoffrey Griffin. It’s location at the top signifies vigilance. The silver bugles symbolize the emphasis placed on music at the school. The school colors, blue and red represent truth, loyalty, military strength, and nobility. The red lion stands for courage, bravery, strength, ferocity, and valor. The silver stars are a pun on the school name “Star-ehe” but also reflect it’s motto “Natulenge Juu” which is Swahili for “Let us aim high.”

Starehe is an amazing school with an amazing founder. When I see what has come out of his vision to help the poor through education I am reminded that this was also a vision of St. Julie Billiart, the founder of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Dr. Griffin’s work has helped many of the poor and his motto “Let us aim high” inspires me in my own work of children with disabilities. His dream continues to grow and in 2005, Starehe Girls School was founded.

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