Dear Old Yorkist/Laibon
We are up. We are running. Perhaps only at a moderate speed for now, but the good news is, there are quite a few others now running with us and alongside us.
We seek to achieve two major goals; to help high performing but financially challenged Lenana students with our annual bursaries and to re-create some, if not all of the school’s once outstanding facilities and infrastructure that have fallen into disuse and decay. Our objectives have been facilitated by the conduct of the new Principal Mr Mwangi and also because more and more alumni of the school, both older and younger, are taking an interest and becoming involved in returning the school to its former prominence.
This is our third Newsletter since we established the Optimum Kenya Trust with the Charity Commission in the UK and the Msaada Kenya Trust which is registered with the Government in Kenya. If you did not receive those earlier Newsletters, or the original announcement of our Trusts’ formation, sent out back in July 2015, you can read those documents and more on our website http://www.optimumkenyatrust.org
Foremost amongst the other entities now actively engaged with the school is the Laibon Society, headed up by David Kabeberi and ably assisted by Johnstone Gikandi and Marvin Sissey, among others. The Laibon Society have recently announced that they have taken on a major project; to completely renew the school swimming pool, pool facilities and filtration system. The pool we all remember having had the use of, has been, amazing to say, unusable since 2008. Shock. Horror. The new pool, with a new uniform depth and new metric measurements will not only please all the pupils who will use it, but will also permit inter-school swimming competitions once more. Here are a couple of photos to show you how the pool is now.
The cost of creating the new pool and facilities has been quoted as KS 15,000,000. That is around £113,000 at today’s rather sad Sterling exchange rate. This is an enormous sum and the Laibon Society are to be applauded for taking on the task. All the different year groups within the Society are now competing with each other to donate to the cause and doing some very interesting things to raise the required funds. The Optimum Kenya Trust, on behalf of the ’49 to ’69 year group, has donated KS 500,000 to the project already and we certainly hope that we shall be able to donate some more. Scheduled completion, if all goes well, is the end of the year.
We should recall that Lenana has a very rich infrastructure, both sporting and otherwise, but the Ministry of Education does not have the funds to maintain this infrastructure. I suggest that it is we, the alumni, who enjoyed its benefits need to step up to the plate and ensure that current and future generations of pupils get the opportunity to enjoy renewed facilities and infrastructure too. In the past it was perhaps understandable to be sceptical about helping, but in today’s new circumstances it is not. The Laibon society, amongst others, are now showing their commitment. So should we.
The Laibon Society have also now begun to provide bursaries to financially challenged but high performing students. Currently they have awarded 6 bursaries and hope that by next year that number will increase to 16. We, the OKT and the MKT have again donated our bursaries, each worth KS 100,000, to 5 new 2nd year pupils at the school. Below is a photo of the 5 new 2016 bursary winners accompanied by Mrs C Kasambeli who is the new person in charge of student counselling.
And now to the only bad news in this Newsletter. The 5 pupils to whom we awarded our bursaries in 2015 performed very poorly during the year. The reasons for this are numerous. As their right to receive the bursaries was conditional upon them maintaining their previous high performance level, it was decided to withdraw our funding to them after the end of the first term 2016. They have however been informed that, if during the rest of 2016 - during terms 2 and 3 - their performance returns to a high level, as before, we shall fund them once more during 2017. We hope that they do so and that we shall therefore be funding a minimum of 15 pupils during 2017.
I am pleased to say that our OKT income during calendar 2015, as expected, surpassed £10,000 which means that the annual return we filed with the UK Charity Commission website, is now in the public domain and our financial affairs are transparent. Let me again thank all of the OKT and MKT Trustees for once again absorbing all of their personal costs to date, associated with their Trustee responsibilities.
There are lots of things currently going on at the school, most of them will be news to you, so I am going to let Ronnie Andrews, who is after all at the sharp end of it all, tell you about all those things in his own words;
Status Report for Activities of the Laibon and Old Yorkists to John O’Grady from Ronnie Andrews.
This may be a long one…
Way back then; in fact in the Yorkist Magazine of 1970, there were several interviews and commentaries from the new Headmaster, Mr Kamunge, and two members of the Board (m/s Slade and Gecau) on the future of the school. In their speeches there was complete acknowledgement of the role of “Elite” schools in Kenya but similarly comment about the needs of the schools such as the Duke of York (only recently re-named Lenana) in the face of growing demand for funding from the education sector across the country. Lenana remained a National School and therefore among the Elite class of establishments in Kenya but as years went by, the commitment to the higher levels was forgotten and increasing demonization of the “Colonial” nature of the school was heard. Successive Heads made excuses for their own inadequacies by blaming the past, despite the fact that the pupils were increasingly proud of the heritage and history of the place.
To cut a long story short, a combination of tight budgets at a National level, inconsistencies and inadequacies in leadership in the school and a lack of commitment from the Old Boys, through despair, lack of interest and lack of coordination, led to the deterioration and in some cases complete destruction of the facilities at the school. However, a new era is upon us now and responsible leadership at the school, Board and Old Boy level as well as communication between all parties has led to a resurgence and a real feeling that Lenana is headed towards the top of the rankings again. And through all of this the one consistent piece of good news is….. the Boys. They are committed and proud and they honestly feel that they are part of something special. We must try to reinforce that feeling and return the school, its facilities and its history to a truly Elite position.
Since last writing for the February Newsletter, there has been a marked stepping up of activities and a growth in interest and commitment on the part of Old Boys who had up to now been rather slow to respond to efforts to assist. I believe this new enthusiasm is due to the new cycle which we have put in place and which follows the model of the Alliance High School, probably the most successful Kenyan ’National’ school in terms of enjoying the commitment of its old boys. We have had extensive discussions with the members of their Board of Management and their Chairman over the past years, exploring how we can meet the needs and provide possible responses for Lenana School.
The “Alliance Cycle” is as follows:
- The Old Boys are active, successful, influential and responsible members of society and have the best interests of the school at heart. They engage with the school and take pride in ensuring that the students aspire to the same high academic standards and to become similarly well-placed in Kenyan society. They also wish the best for the school, donate generously and use their influence to ensure continuation of the high standards through teacher placement and facility renewal.
- The Old Boys influence the placement of people on the Board of Management of the school, control the majority of places therein and also appoint the Chair from among themselves.
- The Board of Management then assists in appointing or is instrumental in approving the Head/Principal (who shares their vision) and they work closely with him to ensure the continuation of the standards expected and enforce diligence in the control of funds.
- The Head is therefore naturally inclined to work closely with the Old Boys and there is a complete understanding at all levels as to what is expected in academic and non-academic development.
- The whole group have strong links to government and thereby influence the lobbying process and then (hopefully) the disbursement of ministry funds and the continuation of ascendency for- in our case- Lenana School.
This was a revelation when we spoke about it some years ago with their then Chairman of the Alliance Old Boys and whilst we had up to then concentrated on building the Old Boys as a credible society of like-minded people with common background, it was clear that a step change was required to ensure deeper engagement with the Government of Kenya. The selection of David Kabeberi as the Chairman of the Laibon Society, the establishment of the Optimum Kenya Trust and its sister Trust in Kenya, the Msaada Kenya Trust, and the appointment of Mr. William Mwangi as Chief Principal all came together at a great time for the school and for its stabilisation and reconstruction. The progress in the last few years has been astounding and although there is a long way to go, there are certainly signs that we shall see Lenana School become one of, if not THE premier academic institution(s) in Eastern Africa.
Principal Mwangi managed the expectations and performance of the teachers and students to see the school finish with an aggregate A- in the Kenya Certificate of secondary education (KCSE) exams for the year 2015. This is the first time we have managed that since the start of the KCSE exams back in the 1990’s! There were some outstanding results individually too and many ex-pupils have now gone on to international universities as well as to tertiary education in Kenya.
Between the BoM, the Old Boys and the Principal the school has also been successful in securing development funds from the Kenya Government totalling over one million U.S. Dollars and the work on a new library and tuition block (at the back of Thompson House) is nearly completed. See the photo below;
The school now has about 1400 pupils and classes have been crowded with 50 or more pupils, so these new facilities are essential! The BoM has just discussed the disbursement of the second tranche of those Government funds and will decide upon how they will be applied to the school’s needs soon. Old Boys now have a significant number of representatives on the Lenana BoM, so that is encouraging.
The funds provided by the Kenya Government have to be used for new development and so refurbishment does not receive the desired levels of attention. Although to be fair, the Principal has re-roofed the main block, painted it and re-done the hall and the paving in the quads. But maintenance and refurbishment are still insufficiently done – it is the overall look of the school that most dismays visitors and that look is now receiving the attention of the Old Boys.
Without unduly hampering this with narrative therefore, here are the main ongoing efforts and more detail can be obtained by contacting John O’Grady or myself for chapter and verse:
- Block 6 started with the building of Mandela House – now about one year old
- New tuition Block and Library nearly completed (see above photo) at the back of former Thomson House
- ‘Banks and Braes’ hockey pitches ‘skimmed’, cleaned of grass, drained, marked, new goals.
- Pool now “destroyed” to make way for a new 25m pool of constant depth. Funds being raised by Old Boys of all generations and the fund raising and work are now progressing well.
- Plan in place and funds committed by Kenya Bunduki Ltd. for the re-establishment of the rifle range. Also to be used by the Nairobi Gun Club.
- Donations and pro bono tutoring in the use of musical instruments has been provided and a new school band has been formed and is giving concerts, starting 30th July.
- The squash court is being refurbished, funds committed by Old Boys who are heading up the KSRA. Msaada Trust may be assisting and donating towards this together with the owner of Kenya Bunduki, Renzo Bernardi.
- Proposal in place for the refurbishment of the tennis courts and to put in place an all-weather surface.
- The currently unusable Golf Course is being turned into a Golf Academy with 18 holes, compared to the previous 9, funded by the Ministries of Sport and Education following a request from HE the President to establish such a facility.
- Kenya Rugby union (KRU) are using the school pitches for training of Kenya national teams and hope to make more use of them for internationals.
- New Catholic Chapel is now in final stages of completion using the old Gym building as a base.
- The Obuya Academy has installed and is using an all-weather wicket for the development programme for cricket in National Schools.
- A recent Inspection has been carried out of the Sanatorium by MKT Trustees with a view to full restoration.
It is hoped that we can generate funds through closer cooperation with the KRU, the Kenya Golf Union, the KSRA, the Cricket governing body, etc., etc. The fact is that with such a large area of land to safeguard from those who may wish to grab it (and there have been several efforts to do so in the past ), we have to assist the school to make better use of it and what better use can there be than as a series of sporting academies which benefit the pupils and extend their learning facilities whilst also benefitting the surrounding communities.
The problem has been and continues to be ‘maintenance’ and our first few forays into assisting the school have proven that a partnership is required giving donors some say over the ongoing management and maintenance of the facilities. This all needs funding and it is certain that the Govt. of Kenya doesn’t have the funds or the inclination to be involved in that side of things! So Memoranda of Understanding are being drawn up for each project and we as Laibon or Yorkists are going to be involved on an ongoing basis and will then only have ourselves to blame if the facilities start to deteriorate once more. MoUs are also going to help protect our investments in the face of any new appointees who may not be as perceptive, balanced or helpful as Mr Mwangi has undoubtedly been. The Principal is fully in support of this form of Public/Private partnership and it is likely that there will be more about all of this in Newsletters to come.
And so… onto other things.
Old Yorkists held a meeting and curry lunch at the Kenya Regiment Club House sometime early in March this year and it was attended by nearly thirty people. Here is a photo of the occasion with the names of those who attended;
There is a scant list of local OY’s and we need all the contacts we can get and please also let us know if you are visiting because there are more lunches planned for Old Yorkists and you could tie in and enjoy Jock’s curry and a beer or three. There is also a regular Laibon Tuesday lunch once a month at Nairobi Club attended usually by about 40 Old Boys.
Richard Leakey (Chairman) and Kitili Mbathi (CEO) of the Kenya Wild life services burned Kenya’s stockpile of ivory last month – about 120 Tons. They are both Old Yorkists. The two who made the fires and set up the special effects for the whole event were Charlie Fraser and Robin Hollister – also Old Yorkists, both of Grogan House.
The school is doing better. It needs our assistance and efforts and we as old Yorkists must remain engaged and increase our engagement for only by doing so will we understand the issues, work to resolve them, ensure continuity of academic, sports and personal development standards. You cannot but be impressed by the boys and the teaching staff and especially by the Principal, William Mwangi who has re-ignited pride in the school at all levels. He is keen to meet you all but please do avoid disappointment by calling Ronnie Andrews or one of the Laibon Society personnel in advance to set up your visit with advance notice. Security is a very different issue now to that of the 50s and 60s and this has resulted in people being turned away at the gate, to their chagrin.
Please keep engaged. Engagement doesn’t need money, but money does also certainly help.
Here a few more photos;
This is where the new golf course will be. It is in the valley in front of the San and going upwards towards the athletics and cricket area;
Here are a couple of less than perfect photos of some of the attendees at a recently very successful Delamere House reunion, held in York, UK, and hosted by Mike Wilson to which a few non-Delamere intruders, such as myself, were invited.
The tide has turned. The older and younger alumni of the school are both demonstrating their interest and commitment to help current pupils enjoy the “all round” education that they themselves once did there. There is still a huge amount to do in order to return the school to its past prominence, but we can do it. We just need your help and donations. http://www.optimumkenyatrust.org/take-action/ Thank you.
With my very best wishes to you and yours,