Starehe Boys Centre and School

Starehe Boys' Centre and School (also popularly known as "Starch") is a partial board,boys - only educational boarding school located in Nairobi Kenya. The school was founded in 1959 by Geoffrey William Griffin and his co-founders Geofrey Gatama Geturo, and Joseph Kibiru Gikubu. It originally started as a rescue centre. Starehe is the only African School, South of the Sahara and North of the Limpopo, distinguished as a Round Square member.

A Charitable Institution

Starehe Boys' Centre and School is unique for a Kenyan independent school in that it educates a large proportion of its students free, and the rest at a reduced rate. This stems from its founding charter as a charitable school. School fees are paid on a means-tested basis, with substantial subsidies paid by the school so that students from all walks of life are able to have a comprehensive, high quality, public school education that would otherwise be beyond the means of their parents or guardians as it may be.

The entrance process uses results from the national KCPE exams and prefers to award school places to those who show academic potential that would benefit from the high quality environment that the school offers to those that would otherwise not be able to afford it. The number of students who pay fees is limited to 30% of the School population, who may also receive some form of support, and the number of students who pay no fees is 70% of the School population.

It is Governed by a Management Committee which is Chaired by the Managing Director of Kenya - Shell and B.P (who are the main sponsors of the School and have been since its inception).


Admission of students is by open competitive examination of the applicants - who send a filled "Yellow Form" before the 31st of July of the year preceding the year of intended admission. Each year about 20,000 applications are received, only 210 are selected to join the student body and about 6 places are left for very needy situations where the applicant might not have found a chance to apply but still merited.

The suitability of candidates is judged according to criteria of need and parental income and their performance in the national KCPE examinations. It is solely based on merit.


Starehe Boys' Centre was the result of the vision of Geoffrey William Griffin, assisted by Joseph Gikubu, and Geofrey Geturo.

Its genesis was the earlier declared a State of Emergency by the Governor of Colonial Kenya during the 1952 Mau Mau Uprising and the resultant overflow onto the streets of the poor and destitute Mau Mau orphans.

The first 17 boys entered the school in Kariokor, Nairobi and it was referred to as "Kariokor Rescue Centre" then in two tin huts that were donated by Kenya - Shell and BP in 1959. The school occupied Kariokor, Nairobi as its major site for a few months before moving to its current site at Starehe, Nairobi.

Starehe Boys Centre was ranked the best high school in Kenya based on the 2006 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education [] .

The name "Starehe" is Swahili for 'Tranquility', 'Peace', or 'Comfort', signifying a place where orphaned boys could find solace in its humble beginnings. It is also the name of the place in which the institution is situated.

The School is a member of the Round Square school organization, offering education to children from diverse backgrounds, many of whom are poor. About 70% of the student body is non-fee paying (sponsored), and mainly get financial assistance from well wishers - both locally and abroad, while 30% is fee paying. The assessment of a student's tuition fees is based on their parents' or immediate family's income, much like in Christ's Hospital School in the UK.


The school is best known for its uniform: the famous 'Red and Blue', blue short trousers and red shirt. Accessorised by a black tie and blazer or wind-breaker.

Links with the country and the community are maintained, with a monthly vacation spent in voluntary service to the community, either in hospitals, clinics, dispensaries or government offices; or any other institution that the students deem fit. This is referred to as the Voluntary Service Scheme, and is a way of giving back to the society.

Starehe hosts an annual football grudge match against Lenana School immediately before Founders' Day Dinner.


Starehe Boys' Centre has a long and distinguished musical tradition. This has been evident in the many successful victories in the Kenya Music Festival held annually in the country. Success has been on both individual and School levels.

The school's chapel (seating 1000 ) has a large organ, one of two organs in the School (the other being situated in the Assembly Hall). The School Choir has made many achievements and through these has earned an excellent reputation. Throughout the School's history, many musically gifted pupils have excelled in private competitions and exams.

The school has many other smaller choirs and instrumental ensembles, along with the celebrated annual House Singing Competition, held on the last night of the first school term.

The Music Department organises these concerts every year, thus providing an excellent performance opportunity for budding soloists and other musicians.

tarehe Boys' Band

The school's most famous ensemble is the band, which plays for different institutions and performs in the annual national celebrations. The band has played on several occasions during public holiday celebrations at the Nyayo National Stadium .

The band led the procession at the Geoffrey William Griffin burial ceremony in 2005.


Though famed in Kenya for its luxurious accommodation, this is not the case. Students take cold showers, a staple of the school since its inception. Starehe's education places strict emphasis on academic excellence as well as duty and discipline. An inscription at the Assembly Hall entrance reads as follows: The path of Duty is the way to Glory. Students are required to perform daily duties that include cleaning their dormitories and school compound as well as classes and laboratories. This is mostly done on class levels and basis of form.

Prefectorial System

Starehe follows a rank-based prefect system to enforce high disciplinary standards in its student body. A student can only become a prefect from their second year at the school. Even then, they never are full prefects. They only bear the rank of sub-prefect and are so confirmed during assembly where The Director announces their promotion. Promotion through the ranks is based on their character and dutifulness, assessed by School Prefects (normally referred to as House Captains), who form the Cabinet of the School. Any potential prefect is vetted by the Cabinet; which consists of the School Prefects, the School Captains and the Director. Most decisions are made by a simple majority vote. However the powers to appoint and dismiss the Prefects lie solely on the Director who is advised by the Cabinet. The force is ranked and coded as follows:

* 001 School Captain
* 002 Deputy School Captain(DSC1)
* 002 Deputy School Captain(DSC2)
* 003 School Prefects(House Captains)
* 004 Senior House Prefects
* 005 Full House Prefects
* 006 Sub-Prefects

The School Captain and his two deputies are often referred to as the 'Red Lions'. The two deputies are equal in rank. The House Captains take charge of the 12 Boarding houses and other departments in the school such as the library, games department, chapel and assembly, among others. Each boarding house is considered a student's home during his four-year sojourn in the school. Here, he will make connections that will carry him through his entire Starehe walk. Normally students tend to attach themselves to their houses long after they have gone. At the bottom of the Sub Prefects are the 'commoners', students who have no prefectorial powers. The force is identified with the following, according to their ranks:

* School Captain - embroidered Red Lion above two silver stripes on the blazer.
* Two Deputy School Captains - also Red Lions, but single silver stripe on blazer.
* House Captains - Silver Lion Pin.
* Senior Prefects - Silver Star Pin.
* Prefects - Badge.
* Sub-PrefectsAscent through the ranks is signified by badges or pins awarded to the above. These are worn on the right side of the blazer sleeve just above the hem.

Commoners are divided according to one's year in the school. Those in Form One and Two are Junior Boys, Form Three and Four are Senior boys.Starehe's high Discipline standards are enforced by a Machiavellian punishment system that varies in severity depending on the offense committed. Teaching staff, Administrative staff and Prefects are allowed to administer punishments on students. A student who feels that they have been punished erroneously by a prefect can appeal to a higher student official. However, the chain of command has to be followed. These punishments generally involve manual labour. As a general rule, punishments administered by Teaching Staff cannot be appealed unless there is a very good reason. Such appeals are forwarded to the Principal who is in charge of the Teaching Staff.

Boarding Houses

Starehe's Boarding Houses are named after its major supporters throughout the year as well as notable individuals in Kenyan history associated with the school.

There are 12 boarding houses into which new students are placed each year, namely:
* Gikubu House - named after the co-founder Joseph Gikubu
* Ngala House - named after the late Noah Katana Ngala
* Geturo House - named after the co-founder Geofrey Geturo
* Pat Shaw House - named after the late Patrick Shaw
* Horsten House - named after a late Danish Ambassadeur and benefactor of the School
* Mboya House - named after the late Thomas Mboya
* Shell House - named after the main supporter of the Centre
* Chaka House - named after Shaka Zulu with slight changes
* Njonjo House - named after former A.G Charles Njonjo
* Kirkley House - named after a friend of the Centre
* Muriuki House --
* Kibaki House - named after the Patron of the School since 1969 Mwai Kibaki

chool Song

One of Starehe's School Songs (Forty Years On) is based on Harrow School's main School Song.

1 These are the years when we are helped and guided

Taught by Starehe to know and judge and do;

Prepared for the future, encouraged and provided,

Strengthened to serve: Natulenge Juu!

2 Brought to the school to join a thousand others

All with one purpose, quick and keen and true;

Boldy we follow in the footsteps of our brothers,

Proudly we wear our dress of red and blue.

3 Honour the School, a way of life which fires us,

Lifts up our spirits, sets us all ablaze,

Teaches and trains, rebukes and inspires us,

Planting the seed to serve us all our days.

4 We pledge ourselves, when this our generation

Must in its turn the weight of government bear,

To all mankind, through service to our nation,

Head, heart and hand in justice, zeal and care.

5 These are the years when we are helped and guided

Taught by Starehe to know and judge and do;

Prepared for the future, encouraged and provided,

Strengthened to serve: Natulenge Juu!

tarehean Colloquialisms

Some Starehean slang is similar to that of other Kenyan National Schools but is unique in certain aspects. The following list is not necessarily exhaustive but nevertheless redolent of the school ethos and with which Stareheans garnish their conversation.

*Boss: a deceptively obvious reference to the Director. However, to some it has connotations of very serious consequences. Significantly, it elicits genuine respect.
*Cop(s): prefect(s)
*To get Fixed: to be booked for punishment.
*Murram: reference to staple cuisine served in the Dining Hall, but prepared to a coarseness similar to that of a murramed road. A quarter of a chilli cube flavours the murram.
*A Cheque: usually a note indicating a misdemeanour given by a person in authority to a 'Commoner'. It can only be 'cashed' after the payee signs it; and after appropriate action is taken. For instance a Teacher has the power to write any student a cheque to the Senior Master(or Director) for any reason - such as failing to focus in class.
*Rabble: reference to First Formers who have to memorize the School Song and Forty Years On within weeks. A Cop can request a Rabble to start singing the School Song, (for example verse 3) failing which he will get fixed. Rabbles have to run to the Assembly Hall for afternoon Assembly and sit in the front benches whereas Seniors walk to the Hall and sit behind comfortably on proper chairs. The Seniors also have the privilege to exit before the Rabble. Indeed, Seniors are also served first in the Dining Hall. Rabbles also have to wear shorts, go for exercise after Assembly and have to be in bed by 9:30PM; after Prep. Bullying of any form or manner is ungentlemanly behaviour and is neither practiced nor allowed, let alone condoned.
*Across: the other side of the vast school where the Seniors have their classes. They can bask in the many fields at break time.
*The Starehe Forest: a small wood Across that is adjacent to the track. Some students have thought it safe 'for privacy' but have been proved wrong time and again by the ever vigilant Cops.
*Mining: a duty normally assigned to Rabbles and entails the cleaning of toilets. However, errant Seniors have been assigned 'Mining Duty'.
*To be Pushed: this is quite serious. It involves being hauled in front of the Director for immediate action. For instance, a music student who fails to attend music practice without proper reason can be pushed to Boss. In the days of yore, this meant caning. (Never more than Six of the best!)
*Campaigner: derogatory for an unpopular but overzealous brother acting to the detriment of the collective brotherhood. For instance, someone asking irrelevant questions in class to ingratiate himself with the teacher knowing full well that the lunch bell rang 5 minutes ago and all have to wait!
*Baraza: open forum like Parliament where grievances, concerns, compliments and school affairs can be raised, discussed and addressed following diplomatic protocol. It is concluded with the singing of a hymn to either piano, string quartet, wind or brass accompaniment.
*Mugumo stump: a tree considered sacred by the Kikuyu tribe. The Mugumo stump in Starehe is located on one side of the quadrangle and is a popular meeting locus. It has recently been moved to the first eleven pitch, and that location is now referred to as 'the former mugumo stump'
*Meet me after Bugles: after Assembly, the school flag mast is rhythmically lowered to the sound of bugles (with everyone at attention!). Cops are wont to use this phrase when threatening to push a pleading Commoner to Boss.
*A Sodium (sodi): one who avoids the required daily ice-cold showers (for fear of reaction).
*On Patrol: being away without permission (i.e. absence without leave). (Considered to be a grave offense).
*The Lion: a Captain in charge of cleanliness. Indeed an object of fear to the rarely errant and could request even Seniors to sweep leaves on any path.
*Shaving: refers to not being given the proper amount due. For instance, it is typical for teachers to 'shave' marks on 100% excellent essays - which end up with a mark of approximately 40%. Shaving has been known to take place in the Dining Hall as well.
*Rec Room: a Common Room (in each House) for all House Members where table tennis can be played, TV watched (weekends only), ironing done, meetings held etc.
*To Hook: the ability to have the charm required to engage a girl's attention whilst she is visiting with a girls' school.
*De-Hooked/Hijacking: to be out-topped in charm and the hooked girl (as above) being usurped by a more seasoned charmer.The term "Slicing" can also be used.
*Weapon: a spoon or other implement used to eat.
*DH Washing: one of many possible punishments. It involves a Cop spraying copious amounts of Vim powder on the floor which has to be scrubbed off with brushes and then inspected before rinsing. Starehe is always sparkling.
*Working Party: an assemblage of teams to perform manual tasks for an entire Saturday afternoon. For example, rolling acres of grass in the fields(recently cut by a tractor) into heaps is a typical 1st week of term Working Party - usually awarded to those arriving late to school without proper explanation.
*Drill: another form of punishment that involves the performance of strenuous calisthenic exercises. It is supervised by prefects and conducted on Tuesday and Thursday at break-time - typically attracting large audiences.
*Special Drill: this is a tougher version of Drill (see above) and exceptionally rare. Due to its gravity, it is supervised by Captains. It is meted out on a group of students, one of whom has committed an offense, but the rest will shield though aware of his culpability. Such alliances breed 'mob behaviour' hence this severity, although it is understood that ratting out others is ungentlemanly.
*Stripe: a red stripe awarded upon completion of survival swimming skills and stitched onto one's swimming costume. Swimming on weekends is compulsory FOREVER until the stripe is attained. Gaining it entails swimming laps and treading water whilst being timed. Those without stripes cannot swim in the Deep End.
*Cross-Country: compulsory running for the whole school in first term. The traditional route circles Eastleigh past Mlango Kubwa to Pangani, then to Kariokor and then back to Starehe - followed by an ice-cold shower and possible some mining.
*Parade: compulsory "Roll Call" which is done in near silence. The Cop merely walks down straight row of students and listens to students stating the corresponding number on the class roster. A missing number indicates an absence. The students then 'parade' themselves for inspection in a guard-of-honour fashion.
*Roll Call: this is actual roll call conducted at exactly 6.00PM and ens at exactly 6.20PM according to Houses; and around the quadrangle. Juniors squat or sit on the floor (quite clean) and Seniors stand. Surnames are called. Those with letters are given them. Seniors typically get their post in the morning at break time! After sports events, victors taunt other Houses by cheering loudly.
*In Civilian (Civile): namely, 'civilian clothing'. Only Seniors can leave the school 'in civilian'. A Junior apprehended for being 'in civilian' outside the school is considered to be 'on patrol' (see 'Patrol' reference above).
*File Number: this is the equivalent of a student identification. When 'fixing' 'Commoners' 'Cops' merely ask for one's 'file number'. The culprit then has to check 'The Noticeboard' to confirm he has been fixed. Failing to remind a Cop who has fixed you that he has inadvertently forgotten to officially fix you is grounds further fixing. Official 'fixing' is formalised in the Prefects' Common Room. People have been fixed for 'running away from The Lion' when The Lion has not even asked them to do anything(See Lion reference above).
*Combiner: someone missing a meal can ask you to eat it for him, thereby 'combining' the two meals. Students who miss meals without permission can be charged for the meal for wasting food - even though it has been 'combined'.
*Holiday Job: this refers to Voluntary Service for an entire school holiday. Stareheans love it.
*Verse Speaking:This is another form of punishment given to one who violates the language rules. For academic purposes, students are required to speak in English everyday of the week except Sundays. This is because all subjects are set in English and for perfection purposes, one MUST practise the language. In verse speaking, one is given a poem, e.g. the 'IF' poem by Ruyard Kipling. The culprit is then expected to cram this poem and to recite it to the prefect in charge of Verse speaking.
*Hymn Practice: takes place every Thursday after Assembly. Departure is only allowed when a new hymn has been learnt and sung perfectly.
*Games Time: the time between 4.30PM and 6PM. Juniors must be Across playing in fields or courts failing which, they are 'on patrol'. Seniors usually spend 'Games Time' in the Library away from the Juniors. Some go to City Centre.
*Photographer: cameras are rare, and those with a camera charge a fee for taking and processing photographs. The better the camera, the more thriving the business.
*Mbuzi: literally a 'goat' in Kiswahili but refers to the monthly meetings held by the Old Starehan Society at the Parklands Sports Club in Nairobi; amongst other places globally.
*Garters: these are rubber-bands or elastic cloth bands worn by Juniors under stockings, below the knee and the stocking folded over displaying Starehe colours, in order to keep them up. They are compulsory irrespective of stockings being up and are duly checked at 'Parade'. Stareheans are known to be smart fellows.
*Colours: awards of recognition to highly achieving sportsmen. It is the equivalent of receiving a Knighthood for services to the school in a particular discipline, for instance Hockey. These are presented formally in Assembly and then later stitched on the winner's blazer by the school tailor.
*Duty: every student has at least one duty in any given area at any given time. The path of duty is the normal path at Starehe. Being Starehean is itself a duty and one which Stareheans embrace.
*Ivory Tower: the Director's Office. It has hardwood floors; and trophies and shields fill every shelf. For some peculiar reason and despite its comforts, it can be a very imposing and intimidating room.
*The Cabinet: it comprises the Director together with The School Captain, his Deputies, The Lion and the House Captains. Cabinet meetings are held on Sunday evenings after supper.
*The Quad: a lake of grass on which only members of the Cabinet and Senior Masters can set foot. There is no sign stating this decree but any Starehean learns this commandment very quickly. Band Members perform on the Quad on Friday's and the rest of the students get to walk on the quadrangle after the 'Leaving Service'.
*Leaving Service: a solemn service at the end of term where the Director recites 'The Charge' to leaving Seniors and awards them their Leaving Certificates.
*Breezing: To lack the company of female guests from other schools during a school function within the school or outside.
*Floating:To fail to understand a thing in class, often when a teacher is in and a student can't get a thing.
*Gitch:To understand.
*Gass:Nonsense. When someone says something that is not sensible, that is referred to as gass. 'Ngebe' may also be used.
*Mea:Grow up. This is often told by disgusted boys to one who says something that at least doesn't make sense according to them.
*Quarter MajiOne of the unique meals at Starehe. A lunch of a quarter-a-loaf and cabbages which have been overcooked to resemble water-known as 'maji' in Kiswahili. Some refer to it as .25 water
*Ndondo:a meal liked by most Starehians sold outside the school. Which comprises Fried beans and Chapati.

Distinguished Guests and Patrons of Starehe

* Mzee Jomo Kenyatta- First President of Kenya
* Daniel arap Moi- Second President of Kenya
* H.E. Mwai Kibaki - Third President of Kenya (Current Patron)
* The Princess Royal- HRH Princess Anne
* The Late H.E. Indira Gandhi - Prime Minister of India Daughter of Jewarharlal Nehru No Relation with Gandhi
* Earl and Countess of Wessex
* HRH Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
* Constantine II of Greece
* Sonia Gandhi- Wife of H.E. Rajiv (Former Indian PM))Chair of Congress Party
* Senator Robert Kennedy
* The Most Rev. Dr Manasses Kuria
* Archbishop Desmond Tutu
* Muhammad Ali
* Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé)
* Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga
* Charles Njonjo- Former Attorney General of Kenya, friend of Founder and benefactor
* Tom Mboya (First Patron)
* Ronald Ngala

List of Notable Alumni

*Prof. George Magoha Viagra Co-Researcher and Vice Chancellor University of Nairobi
*Raphael Tuju former Minister of Foreign Affairs
*Peter Kenneth former Assistant Minister for Monetary, Fiscal & Investment Affairs, Finance ministry
*Paul Ereng Olympic Gold Medalist
*Julius Kipng'etich Director of Kenya Wildlife Service
*Gurrach Galgallo Former Assistant Minister, Ministry of Health. Died in a plane crash

External links

* [ Official Starehe Boys Centre website]
* [ Roundsquare Affiliation]
* [ Founders' Day Speech]
* [ Global Connections]
* [ Excellence in Examinations]
* [ Prof Magoha Award]

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