The early missionaries who were moving into Kenya were very interested in setting up schools for local Africans to start learning about the western world so they could become part of the society the missionaries came from. In 1906 missionaries from England, specifically Rev. James Jamieson (J. J.) Willis, pitched a tent for a missionary school under a hickory tree which would evolve into Maseno National School.
The school is located at Maseno town, 25 km northwest of Kisumu, and is set back a few meters from Kisumu-Busia road. On the floor of a forested hilly landscape, the school enjoys the scenic views of the Mabungo Hills whose natural beauty is further augmented by trees planted by students over the years. Close to the school is Maseno University and Maseno Mission Hospital, which serve the local communities and university students from other parts of Kenya. The name ‘Maseno’ originated from the tree grown there-Hickory Carya known in the local language as oseno (Luo) and oluseno (Luhya).
Today, Maseno National School is a very prestigious school that is well respected by the local people because of the successful alumni the school continues to produce. The local youth wish to study at Maseno National School so as not to be mocked by the local people who would often ask, “Where were you at Maseno?”
Maseno National School is a national, public high school. It is one of the oldest formal education schools in Kenya, established in 1906 by the missionaries of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) as a school for the children of African chiefs. Immediately after its establishment, it offered areas of study in masonry, carpentry, and tailoring, among others. In the same year of its establishment, a chapel, ‘The Rock of Ages,’ later known as St. Paul’s Chapel, was built next to the oseno tree.
The first students were the six sons of African chiefs from the local area. Through the years the school has had many well-respected administrators take over for Rev. Willis such as the well-known Edward Carey Francis who was arguably one of the most influential educationalists in Kenyan history. Currently Maseno National School has a student body of about 1,200 from all around the country.
The students have school sessions beginning in January that last for three months with a one-month break. Each student stays in one of the ten hostels that the school houses, making the daylong class schedule easy to fulfill.
The establishment of the school attracted youthful boys from all over the country. There has been no serious attempt to make it a coeducational school to date. To continue education in Maseno a teacher training school was introduced in 1920 to train teachers who would in turn teach new students. Those who studied at the school were tested at the end of their courses and awarded certificates.
Maseno mission continued to support the school. In 1935, a veterinary school, teachers training college and a nursing school were set up at Maseno. The nursing school was to train nursing assistants and midwives. The teachers’ training college, now Siriba Teachers College, was established in 1940 and in fifty years later merged with the Government Training Institute at Maseno to become Maseno University.
The school performs very well in both curricular and co-curricular activities countrywide. It is well endowed with a conducive environment for learning and has a variety of sporting facilities. It always fields competitive teams in soccer, athletics, cross country running, basketball, swimming, hockey, karate, handball and volleyball. The school bolsters its recent success in rugby, especially for creating popularly known national rugby prodigy, Billy Odhiambo. The school has been doing well too in mathematics contests and in drama and music festivals. Their enthusiastic performance in such areas ensures that they get accolades yearly.
One of the best achievements of the school is that it has never had any strike since its establishment in 1906, which reflects high disciplinary standards of everyone in the institution. The school tends to brag about their student’s scores on the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Examinations which are held annually whether or not a student can pass secondary school. The school consistently ranks among the top ten in Kenya. The local community holds Maseno School in the highest regards and typically judges young men on whether or not they went to Maseno.
Anyone who attends and graduates from Maseno National School has a great chance to succeed in the world. Some 98% of the graduating students from Maseno go on to higher education, which is a statistic that is very impressive for inner Kenya. With Maseno’s intense syllabus most universities know that a Maseno student is not one to mess around. The syllabus is set up by the ministry of education and is stipulated to be completed in four years. The school, having the best brains in the country, completes the four year course in three years, giving the students a whole year of revision and content perfection before the final national O Level exams.
The graduates of Maseno National School are very respected. The school has had notable alumni who have made the school famous worldwide. To mention a few of the “Old Boys,” Jaramogi Oginga Odinga-Kenya’s first Vice President, Prof. Thomas Russley Odhiambo [Feb 4, 1931-May 26, 2000] was a Kenyan entomologist and environmental activist who directed research and scientific development in Africa; Barack Obama Sr.--government economist and the father of the United States President Barack Obama; David Wasawo--zoologist and educator; Prof. Reuben J.Olembo--academic, geneticist, environmentalist, and former deputy executive director of UNEP; Farah Maalim; Achieng Oneko, among others. For those prominent people to be remembered, some dormitories have been named after them. For instance, we have "HON. JARAMOGI OGINGA ODINGA."
Maseno National School is one of the most important institutions in western Kenya. Most of the casual laborers in the school come from the surrounding communities. The casual laborers are approximately 600 in number. They do tasks like cleaning, construction, maintenance, among other tasks. As a result of this, the jobless people from the community are able to make a living. The security checkups carried out in the school are extended to the community. The nearby people don’t need to travel for long distances in search of reliable education-this helps them cut a variety of expenses. The school has built the social networks that exist in the community. It has built the capacity of the community members to take action and solve problems at the local level and has created a new standards and expectations for life in the community. The school has helped build the community into a well running urban environment.
Maseno National School has been the biggest contributors to the growth of Maseno town as well as to Kenya as a whole. Education is the foundation of a man and it is important to have strong schools to develop a strong community. It has led to the emergence of not some of the most highly educated, but also the most influential men in Kenya and the world. That is why when you go around town, you will find intellectuals jokingly asking each other whether whether they are educated, and if one says, yes, the other quips in jest, "but how come I never saw you at Maseno National School?" Your credibility as an educated man is established by whether or not you attended Maseno National School.