The Nairobi School is a national secondary school in Nairobi, Kenya. It was founded in 1902 by the British settlers who had made Nairobi their home after the construction of the Uganda Railway. In 1925, Lord Delamere and Sir Edward Grigg, then Governor of Kenya, separated the European Nairobi School into a senior boys’ school (Prince of Wales School), a senior girls’ school (Kenya High School) and a junior school (Nairobi Primary School).
In 1931, a new school was built on the 1-square-kilometre (250-acre) site at Kabete, the main school buildings being designed by Herbert Baker. The school was then named the Prince of Wales School but, in 1965, following Kenya’s independence the school was renamed Nairobi School. The school is popularly referred to as ‘Patch’.
Nairobi School was initially started in the year 1902 around the present day Nairobi Railways Club as a European school to serve the families of the I.B.E.A. Company and, a while later, the white settler community. Out of the foresight of the late Lord Delamere in proposing the building of a senior Boys school (now Nairobi Primary), and the support of the then Governor, Sir Edward Grigg, the railway reserve grounds near Kabete were set aside for the future planning.
In 1928, Sir Herbert Baker was commissioned to plan a school similar to Britain’s Winchester School, attended by both Lord Delamere and the then Governor of Kenya, in Winchester, a town in Southern England, originally a Roman town which was abandoned when the Romans left England and redeveloped by the Saxons from about 500 AD. Winchester town was a major administrative and silver minting center, and hence, a Saxon capital of England up to the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD. Captain B.W.L. Nicholson, R.N., from the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, was appointed Headmaster of the European Nairobi School while planning for the New Boys School to be built at Kabete. Captain Nicholson designed the school uniform and discipline based on the British naval system; meanwhile Mrs. Nicholson and Rev. Gillett worked on the gardens of the new School.
On 24 September 1929 the foundation stone was laid by his Excellency Lt. Col. Sir Edward GriggKCMGKCVODSO, MC, Governor of Kenya colony, for a school with a capacity of 80 boys. Under the stone was preserved a copy of the newspaper of the day. The School opened in 1931 not only for the 80 boys it was designed, but with 84 boarders and 20-day boys. The headmaster felt the old name ‘Kabete Boys Secondary School’ was too clumsy and it was given the name ‘Prince of Wales School’ , the Prince of Wales feathers were to be inserted between the horns of a Royal Impala as the School badge, accompanied by the school motto “TO THE UTTERMOST”.
There was higher enrolment eventually than initially anticipated and this called for new classrooms but there was a general shortage of cement and thus the first wooden classrooms were erected around 1938. The School population increased further because of the second world war and the Kenya Governor authorised the building of corrugated iron dormitories (the group of buildings that was later to become Intermediate/Fletcher House – the current Music Room). It was called ‘Lacey’s Landies’. The effects of the war were felt more when the Italians joined in and because of fear of their bombing the School, it was made a day school. In June 1940, the military hospital took over the buildings and the students were moved back to the European Nairobi School (the present Nairobi Primary School.)
During the Christmas break of 1941, the whole school came back to Kabete on its own grounds and the space at the European Nairobi School was taken over by the Girls’ Secondary School. In 1942, European education was made compulsory and enrolment increased so much that new temporary classrooms were needed. The wooden classrooms were erected as a “temporary wartime measure.” Clive, Grigg, Hawke and Rhodes Houses (the only four houses at the time) were all accommodated in the permanent building adjacent to the tuition block. Today those are two houses, known as Marsabit and Elgon. The period 1943 to 1944 saw the Rhodes/Nicholson complex being built, which is the Serengeti and Athi Houses complex today. The Sanatorium and School Hall were further constructed in 1945. A sister school, the Duke of York school (today, Lenana School) was founded in 1948.
Today the school, named after Kenya’s capital, is one of the leading National Schools in the country. Nairobi School sits on over 80 ha (200 acres) of land about 11 kilometres from the city centre and has over 1100 students currently enrolled. The current Chief Principal is Mr. Caspal Momanyi Maina. He came from Kisii school still a principal of the institution.
Nairobi School follows the 8-4-4 system of education. The school curriculum is provided by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, a department of the Ministry of Education in Kenya. The subjects offered in the school are as follows:
In Form 1 and 2, the compulsory subjects are: English, Kiswahili, Mathematics. Biology, Physics, Chemistry, History and Government, Geography and Business Studies. Students may choose between Christian Religious Education and Islamic Religious Education. They may also choose one subject among the following: Agriculture, Art and Design, Computer Studies, French or Music.
In Form Three and Four, English, Kiswahili, Mathematics, Biology, Physics and Chemistry are compulsory subjects, students may then choose at least one subject from the remaining courses taught in Form 1 and 2.
Nairobi School Cadets-Kenya Regiment
Nairobi School had a cadet training course of paramilitary standards in which students could enroll. The cadet course was started in the colonial era when Mau Mau activity was at its peak. After the colonial era Kenya Regiment went on with the cadet course until it was stopped by the government after the unsuccessful 1982 coup d’état. The cadet section had uniforms, guns, ammunition, an armoury, a parade ground with adjacent stores and offices and a shooting range.
Kenya Regiment cadets took part in march-pasts during National Days. They also used to be assigned sentry duty at the main gate and around the school at night. Successful cadets who passed out would be issued rank. The cadets, after completion of their form 6 education, could further their careers by joining the armed forces as officer cadets.
Nairobi school has eight houses, to one of which each student belongs. The houses serve as dormitories, as well as for student organisation for the purpose of sports days, dining hall seating, chapel seating and school assembly. Students develop strong links with members of their houses, and these become evident on sports days as well as in academics. The houses are:
Athi house (formerly Rhodes house);
Baringo house (formerly Hawke house);
Elgon house (formerly Clive house);
Kirinyaga house (formerly Grigg house);
Marsabit (formerly Scott house);
Naivasha house (formerly known as Fletcher house);
Serengeti house (formerly known as Nicholson house) and
Tana house (formerly junior house ).
The name changes, reflecting geographical areas in Kenya, were adopted in 1975 as part of a deliberate policy of Africanisation.
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