Kisumu Boys’ High School
Colonialism, Indians, and Western Education in Kenya

The Kisumu Boys High School is one of the best high schools in Kenya today. The history of the school dates back to the early 20th century and the construction of the Kenya-Uganda Railway. The history and development of the Kisumu Boys High School is a great example of the introduction of western education in Kenya.

One of the best and most well-known academic institutions in Kisumu City is Kisumu Boys’ High School. This is probably one of the best schools in Kisumu County, if not Kenya as a whole. It has made an indelible mark on Kenya’s social, economic, and political fabric. Some of the most famous political leaders in Kenya cut their teeth studying at Kisumu Boys’ High School. Jack Ranguma, the immediate former Governor of Kisumu County, is a graduate of the school.

The main gate of the Kisumu Boys’ is on the Otieno Oyoo Street that leads to the main Kisumu-Busia highway. Adjacent to the school are other equally important institutions in the city: the Aga Khan Hospital, and Kisumu Girls High School are some of the institutions found near Kisumu Boys’ High School. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, one of the main mosques in Kisumu city, as well as the famous Kisumu Municipal Market are also a stone-throw away from the school.

The school’s history arguably dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. The construction of the Kenya-Uganda Railway began in 1896 and reached Kisumu in 1901. Thereafter, the Indians that constructed the railway decided to stay in Kenya and acquire citizenship. Many Indians became shopkeepers, and soon Kisumu became known as the “Bombay of East Africa.”

With the increase of Indian population in Kisumu, a primary school was created in 1925 by the colonial government to educate children. The school became Indian High School in 1948 and the primary school was relocated to another site. The school was initially co-educational. It admitted both boys and girls. It became an all-boys high school following the creation of a separate all-girls school—Kisumu Girls High School—in 1961. Science and Art were taught to the students beginning in 1964. Thus the history of the school as a high school is traceable back to 1948.

Initially, the school only allowed Indian children to attend, but after independence the school started enrolling students of African descent. The first African students were admitted into the school in 1966, and the first African to be appointed as school head prefect was Julius Nyawara in 1968. The first African principal of the school was Daniel Damien Obare Awora, popularly known as “apong kor” [a Luo nickname that literally means the “one that fills your chest with fear and apprehension”] who served as the principal of the school from 1974 to 1992. Obare was known as a strict disciplinarian who did not brook nonsense in the school. His word was law, and his decisions in the school were final. He served as principal of the school for almost twenty years. Many of his students remember him for having a knack for remembering students’ faces and names, and for coming up with creative, unorthodox disciplinary measures against wayward students. The school has been under African principals ever since. The current principal is Bro. Denis A. Aloo, and who has been at the school since 2006.

Today Kisumu Boys High School is one of the best schools in Kenya and is a great example of the introduction and evolution of Western education in Africa. As already mentioned, the school did not include African students until 1966, but “today the school is almost entirely African with only a few Asian students and Board members.” The school website claims that “Kisumu Boys High School has some of the best physical facilities/amenities in Nyanza region. For this reason, it compares favorably with some of the National schools in terms of performance in national examinations and socio-cultural activities.” There are a total of twenty-four classes in the building and approximately forty-five students per class. Because of high demand, the school population is 1,200 students who are from various religious and ethnic groups in Kenya.

The school is mainly a day school and most of the students come from all around the city, but there is now a boarding wing because a small number of students coming from very far away from the school need a place to board and learn. According to their Twitter page, Kisumu Boys School is “the greatest school south of the Sahara, north of R. Limpopo, west of the Congo, and east of the Rift Valley!” The curriculum at Kisumu Boys is according to Kenyan national standards, and it covers over twenty-one subjects. There are numerous socio-cultural activities at the school ranging from sports to after school clubs. It is mandatory for students for participate in at least one socio-cultural activity. In 2016, four bright students qualified for the World Youth Scrabble Championships that took place in France. The students of Kisumu Boys fare well in the national examinations. Kisumu Boys High School was ranked the fourth best school in Kisumu County following the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations in 2013.

The Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education is an exam that students take following their four years of secondary education. This examination is considered an entrance exam to public and private universities. If a student gets a C+ or higher he/she will be admitted into universities, but if that same student gets lower than a C+ he/she will “join other tertiary institutions for non-degree courses.” Even in 2015 when test scores did not live up to previous years like 2013, Kisumu Boys High School was still considered one of the best high schools in Kenya.

Many graduates of Kisumu Boys High School have gone on to have success following graduation. In an article about the school published in 2016, George Orido, himself a graduate of the school, mentions notable graduates of the school. Orido’s article states that Shakeel Shabbir graduated from Kisumu Boys and he is a member of Kisumu Town East’s parliament as well as a former mayor of Kisumu. Olago Aluoch is another graduate of Kisumu Boys, and he is a member of parliament in Kisumu Town West. Kamlesh and Ketan Somaia are two graduates who found success in business after graduating from Kisumu Boys. Jack Ranguma, the immediate Gornor of Kisumu County, is also a product of the school.

Kisumu Boys High School has also produced athletic stars in multiple sports. Tom Odhiambo plays soccer for the Harambee Stars, Brian Aduda plays professional hockey, and Quicks Nyakwaka is a rugby star. Eric and Fred Omondi are both notable comedians that graduated from Kisumu Boys. Kwame Owino graduated from Kisumu Boys and he is the CEO of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Kenya. George Orido, himself, and Churchill Otieno both found success in the journalism field after graduation from the school.

The introduction of western education in Africa began with missionaries. Colonial governments were the next to participate in the introduction of western education. Soon enough, immigrant Indians also started participating in western education in Africa. Although basic at first, the level of education offered in the new schools became advanced. Kisumu Boys High School was initially a school that only Indians that moved into the colony could attend, but soon Africans were able to attend. The quality of education continued to increase so much that it is now one of the top schools in Africa. Kisumu Boys High School was a school set up by Indians that evolved into one of the best schools in Kenya today.

By Alexander Euker, Joseph Schnook, Evalyn Diana King’ori, Arthur Okiya, and Ngatia Peris

Images

Front Entry to Kisumu Boys High School

Front Entry to Kisumu Boys High School: The pediment over the school entrance shows the opening date, 1948. At one time, students at Kisumu Boys and Kisumu Girls High Schools were all part of a single high school. The campuses today are still adjacent, though separate. ~ Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

Exterior of Physics Lab, Kisumu Boys High School

Exterior of Physics Lab, Kisumu Boys High School: Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

Gravel Walk at Kisumu Boys High School

Gravel Walk at Kisumu Boys High School: The school campus is a collection of multiple buildings, most of them roofed with red tile and connected by gravel paths lined by low hedges. ~ Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

British Council Signpost at Kisumu Boys High School

British Council Signpost at Kisumu Boys High School: Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

B. N. Bhasin Memorial Bell, Kisumu Boys High School

B. N. Bhasin Memorial Bell, Kisumu Boys High School: Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

List of Principals of Kisumu Boys High School

List of Principals of Kisumu Boys High School: This list of school principals is one indication of the shift from Indian to African leadership following Kenyan independence. ~ Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

Class in Session, Kisumu Boys High School

Class in Session, Kisumu Boys High School: Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

Computer Laboratory, Kisumu Boys High School

Computer Laboratory, Kisumu Boys High School: Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

Interior of Physics Lab

Interior of Physics Lab: Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

Machine Shop

Machine Shop: Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

Motivational Signs on Tree on Kisumu Boys Campus

Motivational Signs on Tree on Kisumu Boys Campus: Signs such as these are found on a number of trees on the campus. ~ Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

Soccer Field with Swimming Pool in Distance

Soccer Field with Swimming Pool in Distance: The swimming pool in this photo is no longer in service. ~ Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

Metalworking Student, Kisumu Boys High School

Metalworking Student, Kisumu Boys High School: Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

Students Leaving Campus, Kisumu Boys High School

Students Leaving Campus, Kisumu Boys High School: These day students are leaving the campus late in the afternoon. Beyond the campus gate and wall is Kisumu-Busia Road. The roofline of the Admadiyya Mosque is across the road. ~ Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 10, 2018

Map

Otieno Oyoo Street on the Kisumu-Busia Highway ~ The main gate to the school is on Otieno Oyoo Street, but one can also get to the school through the Jomo Kenyatta Highway. ~ www.kisumuboyshigh.com