Dear Laibon/Old Yorkist
This is our second 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 our first newsletter, or the announcement of our formation sent out in July 2015, you can read both documents in the “News” section, and more, on our website http://www.optimumkenyatrust.org
We are up and we are running, but we are certainly not yet at full speed.
Early in 2015 we awarded our first 5 bursaries to 5 financially stretched but academically high performing 2nd year pupils at the school. Thanks to the donations received during 2015, we have now been able to commit to continue to support those 5 during their 3rd year at the school and we have also committed to support another 5 pupils, at least, who have just started their 2nd year at the school from January 2016. You may recall from previous correspondence that pupils are sent to Lenana by the Ministry of Education because they are top performers at their primary school and also performed very well in their KCPE exam, but without any regard for whether the pupil’s family or relatives can afford the school fees at Lenana, currently set at around KS 100,000 per year (£700, $980, oz$1365). There are therefore quite a few pupils at Lenana whose parents, relatives or guardians do not have the income necessary to pay the school fees. Hence the real value of our bursaries and our hope, over time, to increase the number awarded each year.
Besides the above, I am happy to say that there are now quite a few entities besides ourselves who are looking to restore the school to its former prominence. The arrival of the new, organised and more open Principal Mr William Mwangi in January 2014 has been instrumental in setting this process in motion. To inform you on where we are currently, I think I cannot do better than quote from an e-mail I recently received from Ronnie Andrews in Nairobi which demonstrates just how many entities are now at work besides ourselves, including, thankfully, the Principal, the Laibon Society and the Kenya Government.
Please take from the following what you may require for your upcoming newsletter. In the course of my membership of the Laibon Committee, being its Chairman and then working with the Msaada Trust I have a fair idea of the challenges and the victories so here goes – I’ll try to keep it short! But there is a lot to cover.
The Msaada Kenya Trust set up was completed in 2015 and started activities right away by implementing the desire of the parent Optimum Kenya Trust to start by helping the boys, as opposed to diving straight into the requirement for maintenance of school facilities – a formidable challenge! The intention was to make an impact immediately rather than set sights too high and too far out. Five very impressive boys have benefited this last year and they and another five will benefit further this year.
A note on realities: the Kenya Ministry of Education does not have the funds to support any school with complex and sophisticated infrastructure such as Lenana. Whilst it is considered to be one of the elite schools of Kenya it does not merit special treatment except in respect of development funding. The school now houses and feeds about 1200 boarding pupils – twice the size it was in the 70’s and three times the boarding pupils of the 60’s. Conversely the rebuild boarding houses Kinyanjui (formerly Delamere) and the newly built Mandela (on the vlei between Kirk and Grogan) and the refurbished Kenyatta House (formerly Lugard) following a fire which destroyed the building, were all funded by the Government. So too is the current ongoing project; building some new class rooms and a new library on the ground behind the former Thomson House.
The funding for this is from the Kenya Government but it must be remembered that the Principal Secretary in the Treasury is an Old Boy (Laibon) and he has assisted greatly in acting as a bridge between the respective entities.
From internally generated funds the Principal has now re-roofed the tuition block (the top classes were flooding in the rains!), the same for the San, refurbished his own house (allowing him to remove the buckets from all the rooms during the rains!), replaced the tarmac in the main quad with a concrete block walkway, painted the tuition block, replaced broken windows in the classrooms, and various other smaller refurb jobs which were required.
But the list of laudable causes goes on and on and, as can be seen from the above, relies upon external benefactors and/or some form of regular support. The school has been a National School for nearly 50 years and the deterioration has been huge. And help can come in many ways: the Optimum Kenya Trust and the Msaada Kenya Trust have embarked upon a programme of refurbishment of the IMMEDIATELY VIEWABLE items; the hockey pitches, the golf course and the Sanatorium. We forwarded some pics of the hockey pitches and they will be in top order from the end of February. (It should be noted that the Lenana team are the regional hockey champions and runners up in the regional rugby championship.) The effort to refurbish the pitches and that of the golf course has received pro bono support from the Karen Club Management who have given us free use of their weed killer mobile sprayer and who have committed to provide grass cutters and mowing for the golf course, an effort which is being supported by the Kenya Golf Union and the Junior Golf Foundation – both headed by Old boys!
There is a requirement for refurbishment or replacement of the boarding blocks – they were built in 1949 and were expected to last just 25 years! The swimming pool, unusable for years, is receiving attention right now and is the principal current project of the Laibon Society. The squash court requires massive attention. The tennis courts are being worked on currently by us with the hockey pitches. The chapel requires new cork tiles. The Catholic Chapel (formerly the gym) is being developed. The San requires equipment. And that is just what one can see immediately. The school also needs personnel; specialist teachers, nursing staff, other.
In the end what comes from the school differs little, from any year of its existence. In the course of the interviews for bursaries last year we were impressed by the boys themselves and one cannot but be so. They are well turned out, developing a healthy respect for the traditions of the school and taking pride in their uniform and their ascendancy. The discipline is improving, and clarity over the boundaries of the school are being introduced more effectively.
And so it goes. Msaada’s Trustees are committed to helping and the Principal and school body know us and look up to us for guidance and support. Old Boys, both young and old, are definitely coming to the aid of the school and there is a good feeling that the Old Boys of the Laibon era are communicating, gathering, assisting. There are regular monthly lunches featuring our own era as well as more recent presenters, talking about issues of interest. The Laibon Chairman and Committee are working with the school, several of us are on the Board of Management of the school and we are hopeful that we shall soon have more alumni on the Board.
Lenana School is a leader in Kenya and should be a centre for learning in Eastern Africa as a whole. This can only be done if the school, the admin, the Old Boys of all generations and even the Kenya Government are joined up in their thinking. This linkage is better than it ever was, but is not yet ideal. The fact is that the Old Boys cannot be a separate and disjointed grouping of onlookers. Too much is at stake for the current pupils and for Kenya and however small the contribution, it will make a difference. Just communicating will make a difference. But the school is definitely on its way back up. It may never be again the way any particular generation remembers it, but it can still be the best in East Africa.
Mr William Mwangi and we have been successful in kick starting the regeneration process, but it is only a start. As Ronnie says, there is still a great deal that needs to be done.
We expect in the coming weeks to distribute a further newsletter which will identify the five, minimum, recipients of our OKT/MKT bursaries for 2016 and confirm the renewal of last year’s five fortunate recipients. We shall expect to report on the completion of the re-establishment of the Murram hockey pitches and the tennis courts. I hope that we shall also be able to confirm the start date for the golf course renewal and the refurbishment of the Sanatorium.
For your information, the only OKT expenditure so far has been the 5 bursaries that were awarded. All of the Trustees have personally paid all of the expenses they have incurred in fulfilling their roles, duties and travel thus far. The same is true of the MKT Trustees. Donations received to date, to both OKT and MKT now exceed £17,000. Our grateful thanks go to all those who have donated thus far.
Also for your information, there is a Delamere House reunion taking place on the evening of Saturday the 27th February at the ASK Italian restaurant in York, England at 7pm, organised by Mike Wilson. And another OY 1949-1968 reunion with a curry lunch prepared by Jock Anderson and Ronnie Andrews will be enjoyed at the Kenya Regiment H/Q in Nairobi at 12.30pm on the 2nd March.
Besides your deciding perhaps to attend either of these reunions, I would like to encourage you to do two things;
1. Help us to expand our contact list by letting me have any e-mail addresses of any OY’s/Laibon that you know to be currently valid.
2. And please donate to the cause, if you can afford to do so. The various ways you can do so are explained on our website http://www.optimumkenyatrust.org/take-action/
With my best wishes to you and yours.