Maseno National School was started in 1906 by English Missionaries particularly Rev. J.J. Willis, and it is the oldest school in Kenya. Maseno National School is a Christian school that is located about 25 kilometers from the Kisumu Vihagi border and rests in the Mabungo hills. Today Maseno School has about 1,200 students with nearly all students living on campus. The school is consistently ranked in the Top Ten National Ranking of Schools, which is a source of great pride.
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 kilometers 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, which is known locally as oseno (Luo) or 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 often ask, “Where were you educated at, if not 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 has, 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 nearby 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, 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, 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 boasts recent success in rugby, especially for creating popularly known national rugby prodigy, Billy Odhiambo. The school has also been doing well in mathematics contests and in drama and music festivals. Students’ 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 its students’ 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 by 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, 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 some of the best minds 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, was 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., a government economist and the father of the United States President Barack Obama; David Wasawo–zoologist and educator; Prof. Reuben J.Olembo, an 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, which 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?” For better or worse, your credibility as an educated man is often established by whether or not you attended Maseno National School.
A Day on Campus: This is a typical view of the Maseno National School Campus. Between classes the campus is very lively. ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
J.J Willis’s Memorial Plaque.: The founder of Maseno National School in 1906 started here underneath the fig tree. ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
Etching of Maseno School, 1926: This etching depicts the principal's house and the church at Maseno National School during the middle of the colonial period. ~ Original source unknown. Courtesy of Kisumu Museum
Maseno National School Sign: This is the sign one would see going into Maseno National School coming from Kisumu - Busia Rd. ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
A Maseno Dormitory: This is one of the older dormitories on the Maseno National School campus. ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
Rock of Ages Chapel: Built a year after Rev. J.J. Willis established the mission of Maseno National school (1905). ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
A Typical Dormitory: This is one of the dorms that the students of Maseno National School live at. ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
The School Building: After being rebuilt in 1956 because of flooding this is where classes are held. ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
The Hickory Tree: This is the tree that the first principle of the school Rt. Rev. J.J. Willis pitched his tent under when he established the school in 1905. The tree is known as Oseno (Luo) and Omseno (Luhya). ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
Memorial Plaque: Maseno National School has many of these plaques around the campus to commemorate the many achievements of past students. This one is to celebrate the achievement of the 2011 rugby team and a few people who were successful in a music festival. ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
The Maseno National School: This is the first sign one would see coming into Maseno National School. ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
A Typical Classroom: This is one of the typical classrooms at the Maseno National School. ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
Dormitory: This is the front entrance of one of the dormitories on Maseno National School Campus. ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
Maseno School Building and Crest: This is the front of one of the many school buildings on the Maseno National School’s campus. ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
Owen House: This plaque can be seen on one of the 10 dormitories that are at Maseno National School. ~ Mutunga Joseph Ndunda, Friday, September 23, 2016
Kisumu-Maseno-Busia Road, Maseno town ~ Although Maseno School is a public institution, it has a stringent security system to ensure the safety of its students. If one wants to visit Maseno National School, one has to prepare to go through extensive security checks before meeting with students and teachers. Otherwise you might make do with walking around the perimeters of the institution to see some of the buildings (and perhaps the students) in the compound of the institution. ~ www.masenoschool.sc.ke