Mang’u High School was started in 1925 at Kabaa by a Dutch priest, Michael Witte, of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans as they were known in Continental Europe) . On 2 July 1913 the first priest moved to Kabaa to start a mission on a 5-acre piece of land. This mission was abandoned in 1920 due to lack of sufficient converts. By then, a Catholic mission had been established at Kilungu. At this mission, Michael Joseph Witte, a Dutch, was running a Central School for Catechists in 1923. It was decided to expand this school to a Central Training School for Catechists. Witte and his superior at Kilungu, Horber decided that the expanded school was not suited at Kilungu for several reasons. They suggested Mang’u, Riruta or Kabaa. Witte was more liberal in thinking and chose Kabaa. The choice was approved by the Bishop. His choice of Kabaa was because he wanted to be far away from the ecclesiastical and civil authorities and could use his initiative to get things done.
On 15 September 1924 Witte accompanied by Blais set off for Kabaa. Witte was a very happy man because he had at last found the challenge and freedom he had always wanted to have to do something for the Africans. He re-occupied the evacuated mission to set up a Catholic Central School. The birth of the school was unplanned and haphazard especially the choice of the site: a deserted mission site that is remote. At the site, the two priests were assisted by a local catechist, Yakobo, who had been looking after the abandoned mission church. Witte also recruited a Muganda called Bartolomeo to assist them. The obtained building materials (wattle poles and sisal poles) from White Sisters at Mang’u and the sisal farms at Donyo Sabuk, respectively.
On 15 December 1924, Witte announced opening of the school though this did not happen due to delay in completion of the buildings. Witte wrote a new circular to every Catholic Parish informing them that Kabaa School would now open on 15 January 1925. With a light touch, the circular said in part “….among other things, the pupils were to meet him at Thika from where they were to walk with him 34 miles to Kabaa and begin clearing the site to build their houses, for Kabaa was an unbuilt school”.
On 19 January 1925 the school opened with 35 pupils, drawn from Bura, Msongari (St. Austin’s), Mangu, Kiambu, Lioki and St. Peter Claver’s Nairobi. Some of the pupils had reached standard 4 while others were nearly illiterate except for little religious knowledge. 19 to 24 January 1925: a retreat was organised for all pupils after which they were all made to sign the “Promise” to complete a 3-year course and to give 5-year service to Catholic Missions.
THE PROMISE: “For the glory of God and for the redemption of our bretheren, we promise before God and before our priests to follow this three-year course (without a salary, receiving only clothes and food) and after that, to serve the schools as our priests shall direct, for five years.”
According to Witte, the official date of birth was 24 January 1925, after the swearing in the students. Some students deserted during February but by 18 March, the school had 43 pupils. Enrollment:
- 1925 – 45 pupils
- 1926 – 80 pupils
- 1927 – 120 pupils
- 1928 – 145 pupils
First staff: Michael J. Witte, Egidius Schisphorst (Dutch), mason cum technical teacher (27 November 1925), Florian (Dutch) to teach capentry (April 1927), Oomen (Dec. 1927) a lay teacher to take care of school farm and teach agriculture, Michael Murren (28 October 1928) to teach high school and Savinus – Building projects (before 1930) The mission was Named St. Michael Catholic Mission.
1. Academic subjects: Religion (Old Testament, catechism and prayer), Arithmetic, Swahili, English, Geography, Hygiene, Physical Education, Singing, Music, General Knowledge (including History), Games and Manners.
2. Technical Subjects: Agriculture, Building, Masonry, Brick making, Carpentry, Ironwork, Pottery, Local crafts, Engineering, Shoe making, Tailoring, Drawing, Typing, Book-binding, Spinning and weaving.
3. Vocational programmes: Teacher Training – training catechists
Novitiate for training lay brothers (1927) Junior seminary (1927)
The official medium of instruction was Kiswahili. Francis J. Khamisi attended brotherhood and the seminary.
Early academic performance
The first public examination was the Vernacular Examination of 1926. It was Swahili and was done on 11 October 1926. 32 out of 35 pupils passed.
In December 1926, during the Standard 7 Elementary C Examination, 32 out of 33 candidates passed.
In December 1927, the B-Teacher Grade, 50 candidates entered and 90% passed.
In 1928, B-Teacher Grade, 34 passed from Kabaa of the 140 nationwide. C-Teacher Grade, 16 passed from Kabaa of the 22 nationwide.
According to Witte, a pupil who did not accept a few strokes of the cane when found at fault was considered to be the wrong sort, since no punishment was ever given arbitrarily or in anger at Kabaa. It was an accepted procedure that before punishment was meted out by or before the principal, the fault of the defender was first carefully considered by a council of fellow students, after which the culprit was made to see that he had been in the wrong. Only then was the punishment administered, usually before all the boys. Witte would say that “You are sentenced by common consent of your peers, and only after recognizing your guilt”. Punishments included caning and watering or manuring the trees and flowers. Under no circumstances did he allow work on the farm or regular forms of manual labour to be used as punishment; he wished boys to like those activities as one of the most important aspects of their education. Pupils found at fault at night were sent to the chapel to pray and ask God’s pardon for their waywardness, while Witte kept watch. He always went to bed late. There were few rules but strictly enforced:
- Juniors were not allowed to mix with senior boys; habitual breaking of bounds resulted in dismissal.
- No one was allowed to go out alone but in pairs or in 3’s.
- Anyone found loitering or sitting idle was due for punishment.
An interesting fact is that till today Juniors and Seniors are still differentiated in uniforms, dining and bedtimes. Seniors also have a separate route known as “Senior Route” to the dorms which Juniors are not allowed to use. The students must also run to class whenever the bell rings.
The School Motto
The school motto was “JISHINDE USHINDE”. It was chosen to stress the role of discipline at school and in life generally. Translated “Conquer yourself so that you may conquer”. It also means: One must discipline oneself even in small things if one is to succeed. Initially Kabaa was more intent on producing teachers because they felt this was the most urgent need of the Catholics.
Start of the catholic high school
The Catholics wanted to start a High School but faced opposition from the Protestants who had already been allowed to start Alliance High School (Kenya). The Government was also dilly dallying over the issue. They even proposed that the Catholics should be accommodated at Alliance but the Protestants made it difficult for such a proposal to be implemented. The Catholics thought of starting the school in Limuru. The Government delayed in approving a grant for the school. Meanwhile, Witte had quietly started a pilot class of four pupils in 1929. The pioneers were: Cyrillus Ojoo, Paul Njoroge, Stefan Kimani, Lukas Kibe. In January 1930 Witte started the High School officially by ignoring the delaying tactics of the Government. 27 boys started the first class. At the end of 1930, the 4 pioneer students sat the Public Examination called Junior Secondary School Examination. All of them passed. In 1933 a few pupils attempted the Senior Secondary Examination. After that the school concentrated on Junior Secondary curriculum.
Michael Joseph Witte’s Departure
On 30 April 1934, the ‘Captain’ as he was sometimes referred to, left Kabaa to proceed home on leave. On 1 May 1934 he left Nairobi by train for Mombasa where he was to board a ship to Europe. He expected to come back to Kabaa after his leave. Bishop Heffernan decided to transfer him to Waa School, formerly an unsuccessful school at the coast which had been handed over to the Catholics early in 1935. Since he was a man of great zeal, it was thought he would turn this school around, the same way he developed Kabaa. He was replaced by Alfonsus Loogman, also a Dutch. In 1937 up to sometime in 1938, Paul White, an Irish priest took over as Principal. The era of the Dutch thus ended and the Irish Holy Ghost Fathers took over.
The seminary was closed at the end of 1937. Its only candidate, Paul Njoroge, was sent to Rome where he studied and was ordained a priest in 1942. Unfortunately he died there of T.B. in 1944 shortly before his planned return to Kenya. The seminary was restarted in 1938 with 3 young recruits but was moved elsewhere in the Vicariate a few years later. Robert Farrelly took over the headship of the school in 1938, after Paul White left for further studies in London.
Senior Secondary Class re-established
Starting in 1940, Cambridge School Certificate Examination was to replace the Kenya Senior Secondary Examination. This development encouraged the Catholic Authorities to re-establish the Senior Secondary section at Kabaa in 1939. The best three pupils from the 1938 Junior Secondary class were enrolled in Form 3. These were: Stephen Kioni, Philip Getao and Hilary Oduol. Hilary dropped out of the course during the course of the year. The other two were later to be transferred to Mangu along with the whole school at the end of that year and became the first Cambridge School Certificate candidates of Kabaa-Mangu High School. They sat the examination at Mangu at the end of 1940 and both of them passed. Kioni was admitted to Makerere College.
The birth of mang’u high school
After school Inspectors visited Kabaa and made recommendations, the Department of Education in 1934 requested that Kabaa be decentralised as follows: Kabaa retains a primary boarding school, A secondary school be transferred to another centre. Bishop Hoffernan resisted the idea at the beginning. He fered that splitting the school would make the primary school lose out on Government grant as only one school would be funded. Thus decentralisation delayed until the Catholics saw their way of going about it.
The Brothers Noviciate had disbanded years before. The institutions that were at Kabaa at the beginning of 1938 were: The secondary school, The Elementary Teacher Training Centre, The Lower Primary Teacher Training Centra, The Elementary Out-School, The Primary School and The Technical School
The Catholics decided that the Secondary School should move to a more accessible place. The Principal, Farrelly with two other priests were asked to search for a suitable site. Machakos was suggested but rejected on the following grounds:Land was not readily available, The Local Native Council appeared reluctant to consider the matter, The African Inland Mission that was already in the area opposed the idea.
9 October 1938 – The 3 priests visited Mang’u mission to consider the site. 11 October 1938 – They chose Mang’u as the site for the High School. 13 October 1938 – The news was broken to the staff at Kabaa. Some priests didn’t like the idea, reason being “difficult in maintaining discipline among the boys in such a heavily populated area like Mangu. Many outsiders would be there on Sundays and would be mixing with students and therefore problems would arise.” They suggested a plot 3 miles away near the White Sisters Convent but the Sisters objected. Eventually Mang’u was confirmed.
Construction of the school
On 5 February 1939 drawings were done at Kabaa by An Architect, Ward who had visited Kabaa. Apprentices from the Native Industrial Training Depot (N.I.T.D.) were hired to undertake the construction. Savinus and a European supervisor were part of the team. Work started and the school was built almost entirely using funds from the Bishop’s own sources. The Catholic authorities stopped funding of buildings because “Kabaa had not abided by some of the decisions of the Vicariate Council..”. At Mangu only classrooms and dormitories had been built. No staff houses were built. When the High School moved to the new site, the staff had to put up with little accommodation that there was. The Principal’s small office doubled up as his bedroom. The other priests had to use small rooms. The situation remained like that in the early years.
The High School moves
The transfer of equipment had to be done before the short rains. The school at Kabaa was closed early, in the third week of November,1939. Only pupils sitting public examinations remained behind. All high school boys were directed to report to Mang’u after the holidays. The other sections of Kabaa were to go back to Kabaa pending their transfer to other places later. The High School moved out of Kabaa at the end of 1939. Paul White who had returned from his studies stayed at Kabaa to head the remaining sections. Farrelly moved to Mang’u as Principal, together with P. Kelly and G. Foley. All the other teachers remained at Kabaa. The Mangu staff was reinforced with the appointment of Ignatius Mkok (an old boy of Kabaa) who had just completed his teacher’s course at Makerere College.
Holy ghost college mangu
“The end of 1939 saw the bowing out the era of the ‘battleship’ and 1940 ushered in the era of the conventional school.” The school started with a completely different tempo and on a different note from that of the old Kabaa. It was named the Holy Ghost College Mang’u. It was under the management of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans) from Ireland. Even a new motto: “FIDES ET SCIENTIA” was coined which is also used by the Roman Catholic High School of Philadelphia meaning “Faith and Knowledge.” On the surface the objectives themselves appear to have been different, except in the basic Catholic principles over which there could be no disagreement. It was like starting all over again, even though officially Kabaa High School had merely been transferred to a new site and the change of name was necessary only to avoid confusion. The three Irish priests who made up the first staff saw the change real and a complete break with Kabaa. They did not want any of Witte’s unorthodox ideas to seep into Mang’u. None of the mad rush to get quick results: hurry and tight schedules were not to be part of Mang’u life. Mang’u was to be a typical Irish school where approach was to be on the lines of gradual but sure development, laying the current foundations for conventional academic excellence and truly a Catholic atmosphere. The difference in approach between Witte and of the Irish priests at Mang’u was that:
- The Irish believed in a school of the “European” type right here in Africa (with minor modifications)
- Witte – employed inventiveness and originality to try and get an approach that would suit and appeal to Africans, even if such an approach were going to be unorthodox by European concepts and standards.
Each one of the above approaches had its strong points.
According to Kenneth Thompson who taught English for 15 years at Mang’u High School, “mang’u” is a Maasai word meaning “that’s not me you smell.” Kennneth said: “When the Maasai hunted lions in the tall grass, they would shout “mang’u, mang’u” to inform their fellow hunters of the situation!” The school was also known as “‘Dayton’” (although very few students are actually aware of this) because of the school’s association with University of Dayton, a Catholic university founded by the Society of Mary (Marianists) in 1850 in Dayton, Ohio, United States. Coincidentally, Dayton is also the home of Aviation.
Opening of the school
The school opened its doors for the first term, on 11 January 1940. 49 pupils reported. Form 1:19, Form 2:22, Form 3:6 and Form 4:2. Many Form 3’s who were in Form 2 at Kabaa had dropped out. In Form 4, the two were: Philip Gitau and Stephen Kioni. The third student from Kabaa, H.P. Oduol had dropped out in 1939 and joined the East African Railways and Harbours Corporation. Gitau became the first school captain of Mangu. The first pupils were well pleased with their “new luxurious school” despite the numerous teething problems. The school was occupying part of the mission land and some coffee had to be uprooted to create a playing field. The problems of a new site were numerous. Farrelly was so overwhelmed by the challenges that he asked to be relieved of the responsibilities of being principal. He went back to Kabaa to teach under P. White. Peter J. Kelly was appointed new Principal from 11 February 1940. The break out of the war caused stress on the priests at Mangu. They were given extra responsibilities of taking care of some missions that had been deserted e.g. Mangu, Gatanga and Rocho. This led to frequent “free days” sometimes with picnics, Holidays of obligation, significantly St. Patrick’s Day which took similar importance as St. Michael’s Day at Kabaa during Witte’s time. (St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland). Sunday afternoons were always free for walks and boys would walk as far as Thika and Ndarugu. Evenings were not exhaustively utilised for studies. These activities wore down students at the expense of learning especially on Mondays.
There was great stress on religious observance at Mang’u. Retreats were frequent. All mass feasts were observed liturgically according to the Church calendar, complete with appropriate hymns, church music and recitals sang by the boys. Protestants who wished to join the church choir were free to do so. An example is that of Karuga Koinange who knows all the hymns and chants. Many records at that time were of religious character and few details on academic activities. The stress on religion resulted in some pupils deciding to go to the seminary after sitting Cambridge exams. Maurice Michael Otunga, after sitting Cambridge exams in 1943, joined the seminary to train as a priest. John Njenga did the same at a later date.
Protestants were required to go to church but were not coerced into converting to Catholicism, though some did it voluntarily. Many developed a high opinion of the religious fervour of the Catholics at Mangu. These include: Karuga Koinange, James Maura, Samuel Waruhiu. According to John Joseph O’Meara: Mangu’s objective was to “ produce solid Catholics, men of good character who would be good and responsible citizens of the contemporary world; men of high principles who saw the need to practice self denial to urges even in small things, and who would be able to stand up for what they believed to be right”. These had been the aims of Michael J. Witte at Kabaa, and are still the aims of every Catholic School worth the name.
Due to the war and financial constraints the government could not give building grant to the school. During 3rd term, Mkok, the only African teacher became disgruntled. He was not housed in school because there were no houses. He was earning an official salary of shs.70 per month; he demanded shs120 p.m. because he was teaching 7 lessons a day and was staying outside the school. He could not be reconciled and was dismissed on 17 October 1940. Farrelly and Cyrillus Ojoo (an old boy of Kabaa) came in from Kabaa to help out due to shortage of staff. Ojoo stayed on the following year as replacement for Mkok.
1940 At the end of the year, two classes sat public examinations: The Junior Secondary class (Form 2), The Cambridge class (Form 4) with two candidates. This examination was spread out over many days partly because the candidates needed to copy out their answers to provide a spare copy so that in case the original copies were sunk on the ship on their way to England (it was war time) the extra copy would be used instead. Both pupils passed making the first Cambridge results of Kabaa-Mangu High School 100% success. Stephen Kioni proceeded to Makerere College. Philip Gitau could not make it; he died not long after. The Junior Secondary class, 10 out of 20 who sat passed (50%). 5 qualified to proceed to senior secondary (Form 3) but only one was anxious to join Form 3.
1941 The school opened on 17 January with 31 boys. By February the number had increased to 40. During the year, The Franciscan Nuns arrived from Uganda to open a convent, a dispensary and a primary school for girls opposite Mangu boys school. At year end, only 1 out of 5 passed Cambridge and 12 out of 17 passed Junior Secondary exam. The Kabaa-Mangu Old Boys Association was inaugurated on 12 October 1941.
1942 The school opened on 17 January with 30 boys. At the end of the year, 2 out of 4 passed Cambridge, 6 out of 12 passed Junior Secondary exams and only 1 of the Cambridge class passed the Makerere entrance exam. Mangu had qualified staff but the school did not place examinations foremost in its practices (not a bad educational approach). 9 June 1942 Peter J. Kelly, the Principal transferred to Bura. In his place, John Joseph O’Meara was appointed the new Principal. The mission was merged with the school and Murren was appointed local superior of the whole place and also the bursar.
1943 This was a difficult year because of the war and famine. It was difficult to satisfy the boys food needs and grambling was common. At one stage all Form 2 were sent home except 2 of them. At beginning of 2nd term 7 were re-admitted. The situation improved in 3rd term when the Maize Control Board placed the school on its ration programme of one pound of maize per pupil per day. Football became a very important part of Mang’u High School. In co-curricular activities, Titus Wambogo took 2nd place in Inter-Territorial Essay Competition in April and Maurice Michael Otunga took 1st prize in Swahili Essay Competition. Shortly after sitting Cambridge Examinations he walked out of Mang’u straight into the Major Seminary at Kakamega without waiting for his results. This frustrated his father’s ambition of making him his successor as Chief of South Bukusu. He was later in life to become a Religious Chief of the whole Catholic Church in Kenya.
1942–1946 This period paused many challenges for the school. There were many and frequent staff changes, making stability of staff a big challenge. The 1943–45 staff remained 3 priests and Cyrillus Ojoo. These were: J.J. O’Meara (Principal), F. O’Sullivan, James B. Lynch, Cyrillus Ojoo
In 1945 O’Meara relinquished the Catholic Education Secretarial duties.
1946 Meade replaced Lynch. M.F. Soughley replaced O’Sullivan. Herman Muraya (old student) joined the school after completing his studies at Makerere, to become the second African teacher.
J.J. O’Meara’s last years
O’Meara was a great disciplinarian and ruled Mangu with “an iron hand”. He was a holder of a B.A. degree and Diploma in Education from London. He knew his job thoroughly but his hard discipline made him to be dreaded by the student body. He used the rod frequently and effectively. He was always everywhere over the compound. He was so discerning that the erring pupils got the exaggerated impression that he could see through walls and thick fences. Many students appreciated his discipline because they felt that he instilled in them certain principles which came in useful in adult life. O’Meara Built 2 more dormitories, extended the Fathers’ house (the double storey building that was completed in 1946), He brought the science laboratory up-to-date such that with a few additions after his departure, Mang’u was to pride itself on having the best laboratory in all of Africa, He also carried out improvements on the lawns and pitches, there was improvement in games and Mang’u started to beat Alliance High School (Kenya).
1947 The total pupil population was 93. He proceeded to Europe on leave at the beginning of February, 1948. James Meade was appointed Principal in February, 1948. A record admission of 97 pupils during this year was registered. The new dormitory started by O’Meara was completed quickly to accommodate the increased number. However the many problems were too much for Meade. He threw in the towel and was replaced by Lynch. James B. Lynch arrived from Pungu in Tanzania to take over as Principal on 9 April 1948. Meade left 6 weeks later for Kiambu. The Cambridge results that year were: 11 very good passes out of 13. Six joined Makerere College.
1949 106 boys were enrolled. The first Board of Governors was inaugurated on 30 May 1949. There were some staff changes. Exam results: 28 out of 31 passed Junior Secondary exams. 16 of them qualified for senior secondary. 15 out of 16 passed Cambridge School Certificate with very good grades. A good number went to Makerere. At the end of the year, Lynch transferred to Pungu in Tanzania along with Nugent.
1950–1960 was the decade of Emergency in Kenya. A new Principal, B. McCourt took over beginning of 1950. The school for the first time opened with its full quarter of pupils in nearly every class. The Silver Jubilee of the founding of Kabaa School was held at Kabaa on 23 and 24 September 1950. A new band instruments were acquired to start Mangu’s own flute and drum band. A decision was made to start rearing pigs and few cattle. In December, Ojoo transferred to Nyanza. Ambrose Lukalo (an old boy) from Makerere, joined the staff. RESULTS:
- 31 out of 33 passed Junior Secondary exams; 11 qualified for senior school.
- Cambridge: 23 secured 22 passes, 16 being 1st grade. A total of 12 boys went to Makerere College. These included Emilio Mwai Kibaki.
1951 McCourt transferred to Nairobi to become Education Secretary.
1952 Frank M. Soughley took over as acting Principal. This year is referred to as the building year. The government gave the school the biggest grant ever; £31,000. As a result:2 new classrooms, new kitchen and stores, 2 new dormitories, extension to Fathers’ house, new dining hall, new library, new Laboratory, 4 teachers houses, borehole and better lighting system. The actual construction of buildings were done by Josphat and Simon. A double stream was started in Form 1. There were some staff changes in the year. Lukalo left for UK later in the year to study chemistry; he was replaced by Simon Katua (old boy) from Makerere. Soughley became full Principal on 16 August 1952.
1953 Joseph Karanja (old boy) joined the staff after his teacher’s course at Kagumo College. A new tennis court was constructed.
1954 Due to ill health, Soughley, the Principal was replaced. J.C. O’Connor took over as Principal. He had an M.Sc. and Higher Diploma in Education. He introduced Witte’s style of keeping the boys on their toes and maintained Soughley’s strict discipline. (Hilary Ngweno joined the school during this year). The African staff had increased to four: Simon Katua, J. Karanja, Albert Maleche (his brother, Simon was later to become the school bursar for many years), and Paul Erulu. Under the pupilage of O’Shea, the football team became a formidable force beating teams like Thika Police, The Royal Insiskilling Fusiliers, Alliance High School (Kenya) (twice) and many others. The Fathers’ house was extended. The year also witnessed the arrival of a huge bell weighing over one ton, ordered from Burns Oates and Washbourne – at a cost of £300.
1955 James Griffin took over as Principal. The staff had grown large; 12 teachers. The African staff were five: David Irungu, Joseph Karanja, Paul Erulu, Daniel Owino and Will John Obuyu Namwamba. The frequent changes of staff caused problems. The first signs of trouble arose within the African staff in mid 1955. Most of them were dissatisfied because they felt they were being treated like “senior students of High school”. Erulu, Owino and Namwamba wrote letters of resignation from Mangu and requested the Director of Education to transfer them to schools in their home area, the greater Nyanza Province. They sited dissatisfaction as they had been posted to Mangu against their wishes and did not wish to stay beyond 1955. They complained of the “dictatorial” rule of Griffin at Mangu. Griffin was an elderly and seasoned teacher and had considered them a bad lot. He had told one or two of them that he sometimes wondered why some of the African teachers had been appointed at Mangu in the first place. The teachers considered the attitude provoking. Daniel Owino managed to transfer to Kisii at the end of 1955 because the Principal there needed a science teacher. 8 December 1955, Paul Cunningham was appointed Principal and superior of Mangu replacing Griffin who remained on the staff. The new Principal had on his staff, two former Principals in Griffin and O’Connor who had been posted back.
1956 Cunningham did not stay long. He was transferred at the beginning of May 1956 to become Principal of St. Mary’s School Nairobi. His place was taken by James Barrett shortly after his return from Europe. He was a tough disciplinarian and an awesome individual. He embarked on an intensive programme to put the school back to an acceptable standard. In October of that year Mang’u experienced the biggest strike in the history of Kabaa-Mangu. It was possibly caused by students’ complaints about “harsh discipline” and general dissatisfaction by the African teachers. A liberal teacher, Claudius Mwashumbe, was the first African graduate who had joined the school at the beginning of the year. He was suspected to have incited the boys as he was popular with the boys. They went on strike on 21 October. The school resumed normal classes on 29 October. Mwashumbe was given 1½ months salary in lieu of notice and asked to quit. Namwamba opted to resign so did Erulu. They eventually were transferred, with Mr Namwamba going to a new school, Chewoyet, in Kapenguria. The strike had an impact on Barrett and his staff. He however pressed on.
1958 was a quiet year, with the usual staff changes. On 14 November, the school was visited for the first and last time by the Governor, Sir Evelyn Baring. He stayed for one hour. Work started on a new European-type house for one of the European lay staff, at a cost of £2,500 that had been received in the 1958 government grant. A new Volkswagen bus was bought, a telephone was installed in the Principal’s office and 90 double-decker beds were purchased in preparation for the anticipated 1959 increased intake. The Cambridge class of 1958 (the Form 2 class that gave Barrett much trouble during the 1956 strike) surprised the Principal with a party in his honour and gave him several expensive gifts.
1959 Two African teachers joined the staff. They were Duncan Mwangi (after completing a B.A. course at Makerere College) and Henry Agoya. The school presented, for the first time, candidates in Agricultural Science for the Cambridge School Certificate Examinations. Barrett and other Holy Ghost Fathers got sad news that Mang’u was not going to start Higher School Certificate (A-level) work in 1959 as had been anticipated. It had been decided that the Opus Dei would instead start this programme at present day site of Strathmore School. However, Cummins, an Opus Dei priest visited Mang’u and stated that they were not ready to start A-level class. The other sad news was that the bishop had decided to hand over the school to a teaching order of Catholic Brothers within a couple of years. Eventually Strathmore College, came into being and Mang’u lost its opportunity of embarking on Higher School Certificate. It was a great disappointment to the priests at Mang’u, since it meant that Mang’u would be considered junior to its old and friendly rival, Alliance High School (Kenya).
1960 J. Karanja left for a year’s study at Hull University in Britain. There were the usual staff changes involving priests. Barrett moved the Intermediate school to a new plot outside the school to provide more room for the congested High School. A new Lister engine for generating electricity was installed at a cost of £1,200 provided by the government. The Mission was also separated from the High School. Apparently, Archbishop McArthy had been negotiating behind the scenes, with the Principal Superior of the Marianists of Dayton, Ohio, James M. Darby to get the Marianists of that Province to take the offer which had earlier been made to the Marianists of England. The Archbishop had not given up because he wanted the priests that were tied up in education institutions to be released for the badly needed area of opening more missions.
1961 After 21 years of managing Mang’u, the Holy Ghost Fathers handed the school over to the Society of Mary (Marianists) or Marianist Brothers of United States of America. It was an agonising decision by the Archdiocese of Nairobi and Archbishop McArthy. Mang’u was their oldest and best school; it was a show-place and treasure of the Holy Ghost world in the Diocese of Zanzibar. The first 2 Brothers arrived by air on 10 January 1961. They were Frank Russell and Francis Muller. Charles Barnett arrived four days later from Nigeria. Within 2 days of his arrival he was in the classroom teaching Biology. It was agreed that Barrett continues to act as Principal while the Brothers familiarised themselves with their new job. Frank Russell took over as Principal shortly afterwards. He had previous experience in the USA as a sports master and basketball coach in several schools. The school was also known as Dayton because of the school’s association with University of Dayton, a Catholic university founded by the Society of Mary (Marianists) in 1850 in Dayton, Ohio, United States. He quickly built a new basketball court at Mangu, He built a new library and recreational hall, He installed fluorescent lights in all the classrooms, He decorated the dining hall, He got most of the funding from the Marianists though the school continued getting government funding. Fr.Killian O’Nuallain, remained at the school throughout 1961 to serve as Chaplain till the arrival of Eldon Reichert, a Marianist priest from Asaba, Nigeria. There were 5 Africans on the staff: Duncan Mwangi, Francis Oluta, Henry Agoya, David Irungu, Nocholas Muraguri. The school lost all of them shortly before independence in 1963 as they left one by one to join various government establishments e.g. Ministry of Education head office, Government Chemist, Provincial Education Office and other administrative posts. Suitable replacements were later found.
The Marianists came with plenty of ideas but realised that the Holy Ghost Fathers had laid a strong foundation based on the British system of education. This was somehow different from the American one. They decided to build on the foundation they found. They stressed on practical teaching of science (following in the footsteps of J.C. O’Connor,) that had quickly established a scientific tradition at the school. They established separate laboratory instruction in Chemistry, Physics and Biology with the aim of meeting the current demand for qualified African technicians and agriculturalists in Kenya. The Marianists realised that the Holy Ghost Fathers turned over to them their best school, so they were determined to live up to the trust placed upon them. More Marianists arrived. These were: Pat Muller, Michael Stimac, John O’Connor. Realising that the education system was ‘examination-geared’, the Marianists embarked on preparing the students for Cambridge syllabus. New and fancy programmes would only be introduced if they acted as a stimulus for the Cambridge subjects. The switching of attention towards academics made Mang’u results in examinations to compare favourably with the best standards in the country. This slowed down the electronics and aeronautics programmes.
After settling in Mang’u, the Marianists were later requested to staff a new school that had been started by J.C. O’Connor, near Madaraka, called Aquinas High School (Kenya). Reichert, John O’Connor and Michael Stimac were transferred from Mangu for the purpose. In their place, Robert Ouellette, a French-Canadian (arrived from Abidjan in Cotê d’Ivoire), John Schneider, Charles Barnett, (who had gone back after arriving with Frank in 1961). Ouellette established the Department of French at Mang’u, making the school one of the first to take up the study of French in East Africa. Barnett maintained a high level of teaching science in the school because of his vast experience in USA and West Africa. John Schneider was very experienced in teaching English and in Journalism. He introduced Speed Reading; brought products of Science Research Association Lab designed to improve the level of speed, comprehension, interest and ability of each individual student. Within 2 years, the results in English brought 20 distinctions.
1964 Frank Russell was transferred to Malawi. James Kilroy arrived to replace him as Principal of Mang’u. He was accompanied by Paul Koller and James Vorndran (both science teachers). Paul Koller took over the air programme and the Radio club from Michael Stimac. Koller also coached basketball. James Vorndran took over the Biology department from Barnett who had been posted to Malawi. The government continued to give grant to the school. In addition, the government offered £7,000 to cover the necessary additions and repairs to buildings and to bring the equipment up to date. The school had to decline this latter offer because of the plans of moving it to another site.
After the Government’s decision to allow 35 instead of 30 pupils per class, Mangu’s double stream classes faced a possible maximum of 280 pupils, too many for the present site and available accommodation. Then there was the need to start Higher School Certificate classes. Accordingly, the Marianists started a drive to raise funds from local and international sources to make it possible to move the school to a completely new site bought from Bos Harries, thirteen miles away from Mang’u. This would lead to the school transfer of the High School. Unlike the first transfer from Kabaa, careful planning and unhurried selection of a site, coupled with the availability of more funds would ensure that Mangu High School at last gets a suitable, spacious and permanent home.
“1966” Mang’u High School got a new arrival, Kenneth Thompson, who was to become a continuous feature for the next 15 years. Kenneth from Ohio who took over English Department, and coached athletics.
1967 John Schneider took over as Principal and continued with the plans of moving the school to a new site. Among the teachers at Mang’u during that era were Mr Mascarenhas (Mathematics) and later on “Monsieur” Guy Pied, who took over French from Bob Ouellete.
1970 the first African Principal, Raphael J. Njoroge (an old boy of Mang’u) took over. He put the movement of the school in top gear. Due to the Marianist Brothers introducing the Aviation programme in Mang’u there was an urgent need for expansion. To create room for the aviation programme, the Board of Governors purchased a new site for the school, acquiring land 214 acres (0.87 km2) six kilometres from Thika Town along the Thika-Nairobi Highway.
1972 the Marianist Brothers moved Mang’u High School to its current site. At the time of moving the Principal was Prof. Raphael J. Njoroge, the first African principal of the school. The school was to be put up in three phases. At the new site, the “A-Level” program begun. The A-Level program offered the subjects of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology. Later or Economics and Geography were offered.
Among the new A-level students admitted at this time was Captain Elkanah Aluvale, who was later to become a pioneer aviation entrepreneur founding the Jet-Link Company. Among the active aviation student was Jos Konzolo who later became a household name, and Major Hilary Kilingi Kioko who joined the Kenyan Air Force. Mang’u High School alumni from the “Marianist Decade” were now making impressive careers in the aviation world, including on Major Mwangi who later on became the founding squadron leader of Kenya Air Force’s first helicopter squad.
“”1973″” Mang’u first Kenyan Principal Mr Njoroge moved on the Nairobi University to pursue a career as a lecturer and work on his PhD. The school was temporarily in the hands of the Marianist Brothers once again. Acting as Principal was Paul Koller, who ran the school upto mid-1974 while the search moved into top gear in search of a new Principal. The search was not long and in Mid 1974, Mr Charles Ng’ang’a Muchai became the new Principal.
Prominent teachers in the Late 1960’s to early 1970s were Robert Geary (Chemistry & Radio Club), Mr Wilkoff “Nicknamed Cartoon” and American Peace Corp teaching Maths.Teaching Junior Maths was Mrs Pied, whose husband Mr Pied, taught French. That early 1970’s also saw the demise of the beloved Fr Edward, whose legacy was permanently preserved in the new Fr Ed’s house at the new Mang’u site. The other two houses were named after Jomo Kenyatta, and Michael Schneider. In late 1974, Mr Muchai split the house into two each. Schneider house now became Schneider and Ronald Ngala House, Kenyatta House became Kenyatta and Tom Mboya House. Edward’s House became Kimathi and Edward’s (or called by students plainly as Ed.)
African teachers on staff were Mr Mungai (Swahili) who later exchanged posts with Mr Mucheru from Thika Technical School. Mr Mucheru was a prominent soccer coach and had led Thika Technical to National Championship, and it was not long before Mang’u High School became competitive in soccer. Also becoming a “permanent feature” was Mr Paul Kibuuka, who became the head of Geography Department and would stay on until his retirement in the 1990s.
The school is very competitive to join, with only the top performing students in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education being offered admission. Once offered admission, students must submit a letter of introduction from either the chief of their area, the pastor or father in charge of their parish/mission and a letter from their primary school headmaster. This is to ensure only disciplined students are admitted to maintain the standards of the school.
There has been controversy in the past where powerful politicians secure a place for their children though they did not perform well. In 2001, the students went on strike to protest the forced transfer of the Principal Paul Agali Otula after he refused to admit the son of a powerful government official. The school admits students from both public and private schools in a quota system to ensure that top students from every county are admitted. The school applies an affirmative action policy to ensure marginalised students from hardship semi-arid areas are given a chance.
The Heads of Departments (H.O.D) are appointed by the Teachers Service Commission. The School has a:
- Science Department,
- Humanities Department,
- Geography Department,
- Department of Technical Subjects,
- Mathematics Department,
- Business Education Department,
- Languages Department
- Clubs Department and a
- Boarding, Guidance and Counselling Department.
The Humanities department teaches subjects such as History, Christian Religious Education (C.R.E), Social Education and Ethics (S.E.E) and Islamic Religious Education (I.R.E). The Humanities Department was headed by Mrs Chege Bernice and is a well established department with nine teachers and works to encourage students in these subjects that foster nationalism and promote morals. The Science Department teaches subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology and was headed by Mrs Anastasia Maina and has been one of the best performing in its subjects . The Department of Technical Subjects was headed by Mr Peter Mungai and teaches Aviation Technology, Agriculture, Power mechanics, Electricity and Computer Studies and prepares students for industrialisation toward Kenya Vision 2030 goals. The Geography Department was headed by Mrs Beatrice Mungai and enlightens students on current issues economic, social, physical etc. both nationally and internationally as it is interacts with all disciplines in one way or another. The Languages Department teaches English, Swahili, German and French. The Boarding, Guidance and Counselling Department was headed by Paul Kibuuka and is tasked with ensuring the students welfare and organising for guest speakers to students and researching on career opportunities in various fields available to students both after school and in the future. Paul Kibuuka was one of the longest serving teachers. He taught Geography from 1972 to 2002. The Dean of Studies keeps the academic records of students. The Counselling services are taken care of by a large team of teachers under co-ordination of the H.O.D. In addition the Chaplain plays a vital role in this department.
In 1951 Mang’u High School made history in East African education by presenting its candidates for the full science subjects: Physics, Chemistry, Biology – the first time an African school in East Africa had presented the full science course. It was the result effort of J.C. O’Connor, a well qualified and competent teacher of science. At the end of the year, the results were 100% pass for both Junior Secondary and Cambridge School Certificate.
Mang’u High School has a very rigorous and challenging academic program and the students are in class from 6am to 4pm with a short break and back to class at 6.30pm till 10.30pm. The syllabus for each year are usually completed early to give students time to prepare for exams. The science teachers perform some of the experiments at night, lunch-break, games time or during the weekend so as to cover the syllabus. The school has a tradition of challenging and motivating its students to work very hard. During the holidays, form four students report back to school for an intense session known as “Summer Camp”.
Mang’u High School has consistently maintained itself as leading institution of competitive and challenging academics. It does well in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and is consistently ranked among the top schools nationwide. In 2006 Mang’u High School was seventh nationwide in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education but in 2007,it regained its top position it last held in 1989 by once again leading the whole country in the national exam. In 2008 the school was fourth in the country. The school has produced the top performing student nationally in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education many times.
The school also hosts the Moi National Mathematics Contest an exam prepared by Mang’u High School teachers that brings together students from all High schools in Kenya. The contest was started in 1996 with 19 schools and increased to 74 schools in 1999. The number of participating students also increased from 278 to 1,200 in the same period. The National Maths Contest has gained fame as a very tough, competitive and challenging mathematics exam that prepares students for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education. The school also hosts a Science Congress and Aviation Symposium annually.
Most of Mang’u High School’s students are admitted into high profile courses like Dental Surgery Pharmacy, Medicine, Architecture, Law and Engineering. Many students are admitted to prestigious foreign universities in the United States, Europe and Australia such as Yale, Harvard, Stanford and Oxford.
Mang’u High’s Beechcraft Queen Air 5Y-MHS
The school has always welcomed changes and embraced new technology. It was the first school in Kenya to introduce Aviation Technology as an examinable subject. In 1961 Michael Stimac introduced new science activities at the school. He started the Amateur Radio Club and Electronics. He also started the Air Programme to interest the boys in things connected with aviation. He aimed at building interest in things connected with aviation such as weather, mechanics, radio, the physics of aviation, designing, plotting air speed and ground speed and allied operations. This became a success. Many Mang’u students joined the Air Force and the East African Airways. The first training programme was inaugurated by Minister for Education, Hon. Otiende on 25 July 1963. This was on the school’s airstrip which was constructed by the boys on the land of Peter Harries who also lent all the machinery. The minister landed on the airstrip in a Cessna aircraft. 6 boys were taken for the first two training flights by Captain Z. Boskovic. Other training flights were to be given by Michael, the school’s science teacher who was also a qualified pilot. This first flight was watched by an old boy, Hillary Ngweno who was then working with Esso Company. The company was giving 500 gallons of petrol towards the programme. John Gordon, the Vice-President of Blackwell Campling offered the company’s Cessna Aircraft to be used for training 60 boys up to a reasonable level of flight and mechanical training. The Company also gave 150 hours free flying time to the school.
In 1983 President Daniel arap Moi was having a function at Central Province and stopped by the school’s gate to greet students and inquired about the Aviation program which used to be offered at Mang’u. He was told they did not have a teacher and instructed the Ministry of Education to post a teacher to the school so that next time he passes by he should find the course being offered. In 1984, The Teachers Service Commission posted Mr.Francis Obilo to teach Aviation Technology. He taught and left for Kenya Airways. In 1987, Aloys Owiti was posted to take over. The K.I.E instituted a panel to write the syllabus based on the 7–4–2–3 but the first group had not done practicals hence were given certificates of participation. The first form one intake of 1987 started the subject with a draft modified by the Directorate of Civil Aviation, Kenya Polytechnic, Kenya Technical College, Mang’u, K.I.E and Kenya Air Force Technical College (K.A.F.T.E.C). Fifteen students did their exams in 1990. The course has been very popular. In 1995, Mugo Gicobi was posted from the Kenya Air Force to reduce the workload which was over 40 periods per week. Julius Asiro also joined the following year but left for Makini School. Simeon Situma an alumnus and former Aviation student was also posted to the school. The program is open to anyone during the first two years but only the top 20 performing students are selected to proceed in the final two years of High School.
The Aviation Technology program is the school’s pride and is heavily focused on technical skills such as propulsion, thermodynamics, meteorology. The Aviation students undertake most of their studies at Wilson Airport and Moi Air Force Base in Embakasi. The aviation workshop is undergoing upgrades. The original Schweizer Aircraft glider N3909A used by the Marianist Brothers for Aviation training crashed and became unairworthy hence is in the workshop as a memorial and is used for educational purposes only. The school acquired a Beechcraft Queen Air 5Y-MHS twin engined light aircraft. The Kenya Air Force assists with repairs of the aircraft and training. The school received a lot of materials, tools and teaching aids from various Airlines such as Kenya Airways, Airkenya Express, CMC Aviation, Aviation Luxeken and British Airways. Kenya School of Flying used to give scholarships during the last two years of High School to the students. The visits to Wilson Airport continue, to keep the student abreast of new technologies and many students obtain internships and permanent employment with regional airlines and the national carrier Kenya Airways. Some have proceeded to join the Kenya Air Force while others have studied Aeronautical Engineering at American, British and Russian universities.
The school needs a properly equipped hangar to house its aircraft and perform practicals and ground and flight training so that students don’t have to miss classes to visit the respective places for their education. The school is appealing to its well wishers to continue supporting the future of Kenyan Aviation.
The nomadic history of the school has greatly disadvantaged it, as a lot of physical facilities were left behind as it tried to find a suitable resting place. The first phase of construction was completed in 1972 and the 253 students moved in. By 1992, very little had been done to complete the second phase and nothing for the third phase, yet the student population was already in the third phase. The student population increased to 800. A new dormitory consisting of two houses, Raymond and Ndingi Mwana Nzeki, was built in 1996 using funds raised by alumnus Vice-President George Saitoti. This helped solve the problem of congestion. There are now sixteen houses in use. The older dormitories were put up in 1972 and require renovations.The sixteen houses are:
- Ronald Ngala
- Tom Mboya
- Father Edwards
- Old Boys
- Cardinal Otunga
- Arch Ndingi
- Brother Raymond
- Michuki Complex
- Cardinal Njue1
- Cardinal Njue2
- Uhuru Complex
The school admits bright students from financially challenging backgrounds and this has led to a shortfall of available funds for development. However, the school has obtained additional funding from the government and is constructing new modern facilities to supplement the existing laboratory and provide offices for the Head of Departments. The current facility has three laboratories for Physics, Chemistry and Biology and an Aviation Workshop. A modern school chapel was also completed in 2002. The school management has also bought two new buses. The school has Power Mechanics and Electricity workshops and farming areas and dairy facilities for Agriculture students.
Mang’u High School has undergone experienced many positive physical developments in the years 2011–2013. For many years the school needed a Social/Lecture Hall as most events were held in the Dining Hall, Library and Chapel. In 2013 the school now boasts of an ultra-modern multi purpose hall which is easily the best in the country. The facility has many utility rooms that will provide the school with many facilities that the school urgently needed. The school also has a brand new administration block which is an architectural master piece, this building coupled with it already existing functional staff room brings Mang’u High School on par with its academic rivals. The school also has a new science laboratory complex, giving it adequate science facilities commensurate with its status as Kenya’s leading school in science subjects. The swimming pool also got a major boost of servicing rooms, while transportation was blessed with a new modern garage for the school vehicles.
In June 2011, the school was hit by a bad storm that damaged the kitchen and dining hall, knocking out the power supply for some time.
The school now has a fully functional computer lab with upgraded computers and high speed internet. Kenya Airways offered to pay the full amount for 40 computers to set up two labs: one for all students and one specifically for the Aviation Technology program.
On 16 May 2011, The French ambassador to Kenya, Etienne de Poncins and the Ministry of Education, launched a French Language Resource Centre at Mang’u High School. Students from neighbouring Compuera Mangu Girls School, Mary Hill Girls School, Thika High School and Thika School for the Blind will also benefit from the resource center.
The School is also leading in the effort to go green by using Biogas energy. Effluent from the institutions are collected in three different digester tanks and then piped over 3 km to the gas chamber where the gas is collected. It is then used to power a generator that is used in the school.
With these facilities in place, Mang’u High School can boast of having reached its full potential in physical facilities in the year 2013 (Under the keen eye of Mwalimu Raichena, the current principal). For the first time in history Mang’u is matching the facilities of its historical rival the Alliance High School. Over the years Mang’u High School “defied logic” by performing excellently academically in the face of adversity (inadequate facilities). It will be interesting to see how it performs now that it facilities are among the very best national schools in Kenya. Mang’u retians it’s strong traditions and history and will no doubt hold its position at the top.
School Anthem (In Swahili)
The melody is borrowed from the Tanzanian and East African National Anthems.
Mungu ibariki Mang’u High,
Ibariki viongozi wake,
Katika michezo masomo,
Mang’u High tuwe washindi,
Mang’u High na watu wake,
Ibariki, Mang’u High! (X2)
Ibariki, Mang’u High na watu wake,
Mang’u High tuwe washindi!
Rift Valley Academy take on Mang’u High School in a Prescott Cup game
Mang’u High Swimming Pool
Basketball in Kenya was started in Mang’u by the Marianist Brothers when Frank Russell took over as Principal. He had previous experience in the USA as a sports master and basketball coach in several schools. Mang’u High School has not only been an academic powerhouse but also been leading in extra-curricular activities such as drama, music and mainly sports. It strives to produce well rounded gentlemen. The Sports include Basketball, Football, Rugby, Swimming, Tennis, Decathlon, Volleyball and others. The school has two rugby pitches, two basketball courts, a football pitch, a hockey pitch, an athletics track and a swimming pool. Other facilities are table tennis and a handball field. The Basketball team is known as the ‘Panthers’ and have been the National Champions for many years.
Mang’u also has a strong football team known as Pirates. The team has produced good players over the years like Stevo Oush of the class of 2003. But for a broken metatarsal, Oush was set to join Bursaspor in the Turkish League. After a long period of underachieving, the team finally came of age in 2003.
The school is also known for its strong rugby team known as ‘Wazimba’. Rugby was introduced into the school in early 1987. There was no rugby pitch at the time but the school administration allocated some land which was converted to two standard size rugby pitches which are used by the players today. The game was quite new to most of the students and the game took some time to be learnt, accepted and enjoyed by the students. The passion for the game flared up in the 1990s when more students took interest and the school started competing against other schools. Wazimba over the years has become a remarkable household name in Kenyan rugby being famous for its perfect line outs. It participates in the various tournaments e.g. Camp David(mangu), Mangu Open(Mangu), Changez Open(Lenana school), Damu Pevu Tournament, Bush Open(alliance school), Impala Floodlights, Uttermost(Nairobi school), 7’s Aside School League, 15’s Aside Secondary League and Prescott Tournament. In 2010, Wazimba scooped the Kenya Rugby Union and Ministry of Rugby’s Elliptics School of the Year Awards after scooping the East African Schools, Impala Floodlit, Prescott Cup and national schools titles. On 29 October 2011 the rugby team retained the Zuku Impala Floodlit title. Wazimba have also played in many East African Regional tournaments. Many former rugby team alumni have played for the Kenya national rugby union team. The team has also produced outstanding players with international recognition like the late Joshua Gathumbi, Vincent Ongera, Daniel Kiptoo Bargoria, Dennis Karanja, Matthew Msalia, Polycap Odhiambo and Ted Munene. The team natures young talent to excellent players. The team is at the moment being coached by two very experienced coaches: Steve Maongo and John Boscow – mwamba (a world class referee with 10 international appearances and an IRB certified educator).
In August 2010, Mang’u High School hockey team won the Brookside East Africa Secondary School hockey title when they defeated St Mary’s College Kisubi of Uganda 4–0.
Clubs and Societies
The Clubs Department is headed by Ms. Maina. The clubs help the students in various disciplines. Some are academic while others are social. The clubs invite and visit other schools for various functions pertaining to their societies. The students are prepared to be useful people in the society in the future as they organise all the activities in the clubs and societies. The school administration has given the clubs full support in their endeavours. For every club, there is a Patron who acts as a consultant, currently a teacher. The school has many clubs including Debate, Law, Drama, Music, History, Charity, Scouts, Red Cross, Chess, Young Farmers, Football, Rugby, Christian Union, Seventh Day Adventist, Engineering, Gym, Wildlife, Science, Aviation, Journalism, French, German and Computer clubs. Students appoint their own officials and raise their own funds which are held in the Bursar office. The Journalism Club produces the popular Savannah Magazine. The Aviation Club is very popular and hosts the annual Aviation Symposium. Kenya Airways invited the Aviation Club members for a demo flight during the delivery of its first Boeing 767. The Biotechnology Club’s aims is to assist students to explore their knowledge on matters of concern in the field of Biotechnology and to engage students in the learning of new ways of using scientific tools modify organisms to achieve traits useful to humankind. The school also has a German exchange program. The school needs alumni who are professionals in various fields to volunteer as Patrons to mentor the various clubs.
Junior achievement club is basically an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to gain vital business knowledge. Each year a company is formed by members in form one to three to undertake the year’s programme. The members choose a business idea and after assessing its viability develop it into a project that can help them gain practical skills in business. At the end of the year students take part in a national competitive expo where all companies show case their products. A team of highly experienced judges drawn from the corporate sector then choose the best placed companies a host of awards. The best company takes the Biashara award. The form four’s(former company members) are taken through a job shadowing program where they get to meet with members of the corporate world to learn more about the job they usually do.
Mang’u High School has helped shape the history and future of Kenya. Alumni share a strong bond and are known to give each other preferential treatment in job offers and contracts. The school has alumni including politicians, businessmen, lawyers, engineers, doctors, scientists, clergymen and pilots. Mang’u High School will probably be the only high school in Kenya’s history to have its alumni running the country as President and Vice-President at the same time. From 25 September 2003 to 9 January 2008 Mang’u High School alumni ruled Kenya as President and Vice-President including many members of cabinet. Among the high profile politicians who studied at Mang’u High School are President Mwai Kibaki who attained the maximum possible score. He is entered in the 1947 school register as Emilio Mwai s/o Kibaki from Othaya, Nyeri District. Described as a brilliant student and a keen Catholic, he scored As in Geography, Kiswahili and Arithmetic, but managed only Cs in Geometry, English, Latin, Chemistry, Physics and Hygiene. Schoolmates in the lower classes say he was outspoken and joyous, but did not show much interest in extra-curricular activities like sport but at Mang’u, he is remembered as a great debater.
Former Vice-President Moody Awori is entered in the 1944 register as Asanasio Mudeyi s/o the Rev Jeremiah Awori of North Kavirondo district (now Busia). Although now the respected old man of Kenya politics, at Mang’u he was given to boyish mischief. The head teacher described his character in some fairly harsh words and gave that as the reason why the school refused to take him back for upper secondary education, in spite of a sterling performance in the lower level. The young Awori excelled in languages, history, geography and agriculture, but fell flat in mathematics, algebra and geometry. Cabinet Minister George Saitoti who was also a Vice-President of Kenya, left Mang’u before sitting his Cambridge School Certificate examination (O-level) on winning a scholarship to the United States, where he enrolled at Brandeis University in Massachusetts in 1962 to study mathematics. The late Cabinet Minister John Michuki was a school captain and also met President Mwai Kibaki at Mang’u. Michuki was in the 1952–1954 class and his records state he was “industrious, energetic and a little too hard on fellow students”. It is perhaps because of that latter trait that he was appointed head prefect at Mang’u. He was also good in football and athletics.
Another Alumnus who served as Cabinet Minister in Mwai Kibaki‘s administration is Agriculture Minister Kipruto Arap Kirwa who was in Mang’u’s O- level class of 1977–80. The school appears to have prepared him for a career in politics, at least going by the remarks in his school-leaving certificate. It reads: “He was outspoken and frank. Above average in intelligence and of exemplary character.” Mr Kirwa was a class prefect in the lower classes and a dormitory captain when in Forms III and IV. He also excelled in athletics, particularly the sprints and relays. Another Alumnus who served as a Cabinet Minister is Cyrus Jirongo who was in the Mang’u O-level class of 1978 to 1981. His school records says he was “argumentative, joyous, impatient and always questioning the order of things.” He was also a star footballer, secretary of the debating club and member of the school drama troupe. Schoolmates also remember CJ, as they called him, as always top of the list of suspected ring leaders any time the students had a showdown with the school authorities. However, they say he was cunning enough to get away with it and was never suspended. Another Cabinet Minister is the late Tom Mboya who was one of Kenya’s principal leaders that agitated for Kenya’s independence. Other notable alumni include Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga who was in the first graduating class. Shortly after sitting Cambridge Examinations he walked out of Mangu straight into the Major Seminary at Kakamega without waiting for his results. This frustrated his father’s ambition of making him his successor as Chief of South Bukusu. He was later in life to become a Religious Chief of the whole Catholic Church in Kenya. The headmaster captured the young Otunga’s strengths in the following words: “He is one of the finest characters ever in Mang’u; captain of the First Eleven and an all-round sportsman.” Other clergymen are Archbishop Ndingi Mwana Nzeki, Archbishop John Njenga who also met Mwai Kibaki and Moody Awori at Mang’u and says he taught Moody Awori catechism. Mr Njenga was described as a bright student who excelled in algebra, agriculture, and Latin. Others are Anthony Muheria, a close friend of Mwai Kibaki and was appointed by him to be a member of the Judicial Service Commission.
Joseph Barrage Wanjui, Chancellor University of Nairobi, Chairman and CEO of East African Industries (Unilever). Described as “reliable” in the school records and also by his head at Mang’u in 1957 as “a student of fair intelligence but one who had to apply himself to make the grade through sheer hard work”. The report concluded that he was “a most satisfactory, thoroughly energetic and reliable prefect”. “He is truthful, pleasant, honest and hard-working.” Mr Hillary Ng’weno, Media Magnate, is the founder of STV (Stellavision television). Nuclear scientist educated at Harvard, first Kenyan Editor-in-Chief of Daily Nation. He joined Mang’u in 1952 and although he excelled in most subjects with straight As, he was poor in those that were to be at the core of his career, scoring Cs in both English and Kiswahili. Mr Ng’weno’s registration name was Hilarious Bonifes and he was described as a Samia from Nairobi. His unusual home address was EARH, Makongeni Locomotive Shed, P.O. Box 753 Nairobi. Various other alumni have been appointed to head Parastatals and Commissions by the President. Joseph Konzolo is a former director of the National Social Security Fund (Kenya) and was also a former chairman of the Board of Governors of Mang’u High School. His school records tell of a student who was “very reliable” and the only student who did not take part in any school strike in the four years he was at Mang’u. Mr Konzolo was a school prefect and performed well in electronics and aviation. He was also good in athletics and hockey and was described as a committed Christian and an official of the school’s Christian Union. Dr. Joshua Noreh performed Kenya’s first In vitro fertilisation. Raphael J. Njoroge is an educationist who is an alumnus and was also its first African principal. Some of the pilots of the now defunct East African Airways and senior pilots at Kenya Airways came from Mang’u High School.See also: Category:Alumni of Mang’u High School
- Wilfred Kiboro, CEO Nation Media Group
- Khadambi Asalache, Kenyan poet and author who settled in London in 1960, later a civil servant at HM Treasury, taught Swahili at the Berlitz School, and worked for the BBC African Service.
- Binyavanga Wainaina, author, journalist and winner of the Caine Prize, nominated by the World Economic Forum as a “Young Global Leader” but declined the award.
The Mang’u Old Boys Group is active and has opened an Office at the school with a main objective to keep track of the Mang’u Old Boys and reunite them. They are also represented at the Board of Governors and have a dorm named in their memory. The Alumni Office has a lot to offer the Mang’u Old Boys. Some of these benefits will include: Social events e.g. sports and other leisure activities, which in turn create an opportunity to form business networks and other relations with mutual benefits. This is just in addition to the primary benefit of reuniting with old friends and sharing fun times together. The school currently needs a social networking platform where alumni can exchange job opportunities with each other in the job market. Currently alumni have a very active yahoo group known as Jishinde Ushinde, a Facebook group and a LinkedIn group. Several alumni sponsor needy students at the school and proposed Old Boys Endowment Fund is in the works.
Mang’u High School Chapel
The Archbishop of Nairobi took the initiative to establish a chaplaincy in the school. The activities of the chaplaincy pivots around the mission to teach, guide and counsel. Every Monday and Friday the chaplain offers prayers during assembly. Every Sunday there is a period of worship. The Muslims are provided a room which serves as a “mosque”, the Protestants worship in the dining hall while the Catholics attend Mass in the school chapel. The first and last Sundays of the terms are joint worship. The Archbishop visits to administer sacrament of confirmation and prior to the start of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education. The Protestants are guided by the Christian Union Patron assisted by Christian Union Fellowship.
The Chaplain offers catechism instructions to those willing to be baptised, receive the Holy Communion or Sacrament of Confirmation. Guidance is given collectively during school assemblies and individually. The Chaplain also assists the school administration in inspiring the school community to uphold or maintain the ideal of a catholic sponsored school where the formation of character is the foundation of sound discipline, academic excellence and of an all rounded personality.
Culture and Traditions
In Mang’u there is a famous saying that “there are only two schools, Mang’u and the rest”. Other popular sayings are “In Mang’u we make things happen and not just let them happen”, “To some greatness is born, to others it is thrust upon them but to Mang’u it is achieved.” Another common slogan is “aluta continua”. Students are taught to not just be book smart but also sociable, as Idris demonstrates it. The school has a vibrant cheering squad during sport competitions. Alumni are also very loyal to their alma mater and frequently attend sporting competitions and candidate dedications.
Students are required to be responsible in various duties and chores in the Houses and classrooms.At any time when the bell rings, all students must run to wherever they are going. This culture trains the students to be responsible with time. Every year the most disciplined and responsible students interview to become captains in various areas of responsibility. During Interview Day, no classes are held as all teachers interview the candidates. The School Captain is the most powerful and gives a speech every Friday during assembly. The most famous School Captain was the late Hon. John Michuki who was a Cabinet Minister. The Principal, Deputy Principal and Discipline Master chose the Pentagon. The Pentagon is made up of the School Captain, his Deputy, the Dining Hall captain, his Deputy and the Sports Captain. The pentagon is the highest policy making organ for the students in running the affairs of the school. The House Captains are also essential in managing the affairs of the Houses. They assign duties and give punishments. The Houses compete in every area from cleanliness to drama and music festivals to sports. The most popular prefect is the Entertainment prefect who selects movies for Saturday ‘movie nights’. The Captains have certain privileges to compensate the additional work of assisting in managing the students. They are expected to lead by example and be conversant with the school traditions and contribute ideas contained in the Principal’s speech.
Alliance High School is a sworn rival of every student from their admission and the goal of every student is to defeat Alliance in every competition and to bring the trophy back home. This rivalry spans from the 1930s and it was just as bad as today. This culture has been passed down over generations. Fights have at times broken out with Alliance students during sporting competitions. Many of Mang’u cheering songs directly mock Alliance. The school has a cheer leading group dubbed the cheering squad. One of the most vocal cheering squad members since 2000 was one Stevo Oush of the class of 2003 who is presently living a quiet life in Meru, Kenya.