Starehe Boys’ Centre and School in July 2021 welcomed 280 boys into form one, with 78% of them coming from poor backgrounds on a full four-year sponsorship. The other 22% have been admitted under partial sponsorship and fee-paying categories.

These boys were selected through a competitive process from a total of 2,596 who selected Starehe as their first-choice national secondary school. Coming through the gates of Starehe – a place of refuge – these young men have started a transformational journey of character formation that will position them for excellence in academics and co-curricular activities.

With ambitions to become doctors, engineers, lawyers and teachers among others, these young people are bustling with great hopes and dreams for a bright future despite the difficult backgrounds that majority of them come from. Hopes and dreams that they believe, and truly so, that only Starehe can help them realize. At Starehe, they will be equipped with holistic education founded on strong principles of discipline and leadership embedded with the values of integrity, leadership, and service.

Getting to Starehe

Their admission is the final step of a lengthy process that began when they joined Standard 8. Starehe requires that all those seeking admission under any category to complete a “yellow form”. The form captures details about the boy’s family background and reasons why admission to the centre is requested. The information captured must be certified by the headteacher of his primary school, a local chief and religious leader to ascertain the correctness of the information provided. Additionally, the boy must select Starehe as his first-choice national school and attain the required marks in his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations. The school then uses the information to determine the need and decide to grant or deny admission. For sponsored boys, the information is also used to develop their case history to be shared with prospective sponsors.

Each year about 200 places are reserved for bright and needy boys whose families would not afford fees for in an ordinary secondary school and that deserve free boarding and tuition at Starehe. The remaining 80 places are allocated to fee-paying students whose families can pay and understand that fees are charged according to family means. This is in keeping with the centre’s 70-30 policy that ensures the centre reflects the realities in society where those who are poor co-exist with those who are well endowed.

Admission Process

The boys together with their parents/guardians began streaming into the school from as early as 6:00am. An elaborate step-by-step process was laid down to ensure and organized, smooth, and efficient exercise. From the gate they were received and screened by the security team and issued with a queue ticket awaiting commencement of the exercise from 8:00am. The assembly hall acted as the holding room from where they were briefed on the process.

They would then be ushered into the form one classrooms where the centre’s admission officers would verify their documents, obtain copies, and populate the student files. Each student is issued with a unique “file number” that becomes their Starehe identifier for the rest of their lives. The boys would then be confirmed as admitted to the school on the Government’s National Education Management Information System (NEMIS) before proceeding to the school accounts office to ascertain their fee category and opening of their fee account with the school.

Next was a stop at the uniform store where they would be fitted with a brand-new set of the iconic red and blue uniform – which were then clearly labeled with their file numbers. They also received other personal items including a bath towel, cup, spoon, games short and shoes and beddings. This was then followed a medical review by the resident school nurse to understand their medical history and onsite pre-existing conditions they boys may have. This would make it easier for the school to handle them if they became ill.

Later in the evening, they boys would have a taste of their first school meal of ugali, beef and cabbage. Thereafter they would be shown to their dormitories where they would spend the rest of their nights while at Starehe.

With COVID still ravaging the world, the preventive measures were put in place and enforced throughout the duration of the exercise. The boys had their temperatures taken during medical review. For ease of management and maintenance of social distancing, the reporting was staggered across five days with each boy allocated a day to come.

As the boys came in an induction programme, coordinated by the School Prefectorial Team, was organized, and run simultaneously. During this time they would mingle, get to know each other and begin to form new friendships. They were also taken on a tour of the school premises, introduced to a brief history of the school, how it’s organized and run, and the school rules. The boys also got an opportunity to ask questions and seek clarifications.

A parents/guardians engagement plan was also put in place to ensure clarity and to address any emerging concerns. This ensured that everyone was well attended to within reasonable time, something which they appreciated.

For some of the parents who are alumni of Starehe, it was a case of “second admission.” They couldn’t hide the joy and pride of coming back to the Centre to with their sons and for the case of one, a grandson. For them, Starehe – the place where they became men – has a special place in their hearts. Many become nostalgic as they fondly recall the memories of their first day at Starehe. Proudly, they hold the hands on their young ones and as they set forth on a journey they took themselves, many years ago.

Opportunities at Starehe

Beyond the long-standing history of academic excellence, an integral part of discipline and character formation at the Centre has been the participation of students in co-curricular activities. Starehe presents these young men with a wide array of activities that they can take part in to nurture their talents and acquire essential life skills.

With over 40 clubs, societies and movements in the school, students have a rich menu of non-formal education opportunities for character formation and leadership development. Notable ones include Scouting, St. John’s Ambulance, President’s Award Scheme, SCAN (Journalism), Wildlife and many more. Every school holiday, the students have an opportunity to volunteer in various public and private institutions across the country like hospitals, libraries, community centres, orphanages etc under the school’s Voluntary Service Scheme that exposes them to real-life work situations, from which other develop future career interests.

Starehe is also known for its prowess in games and sports where its students have competed nationally and internationally. From its fields have emerged great sportsmen who have gone on to represent the country in international sporting championships, including the Olympics in various disciplines. From football, basketball, volleyball, handball to athletics, swimming, lawn tennis, badminton, cricket and even the little know tchoukball, Starehe is a hub for developing sporting talents?

The place of music in the centre’s culture is epitomized by its iconic marching brass band that has bought it great pride for many years having played at numerous national and international events. At the school’s music centre, students have a space to develop their talents music, poetry, and drama. This has ensured that the school performed exemplary well at the annual inter-schools’ music and drama festivals to national level.

Probably the only school in the country, with a church and a mosque in its compounds, Starehe is also a place where religious diversity is respected, and faiths nurtured. The Starehe experience is one that transforms a destitute boy into a leader that can improve the circumstances of his own life, that of his family and the society at large.

What it Means to be Starehian

Unlike in other schools where you’d find a long list of dos and don’ts, Starehe has only two namely, (1) A Starehian is dutiful, polite and considerate of other people’s feelings. He keeps himself clean and smart, and (2) Anything that is contrary to decency, good manners or common sense is contrary to the rules of the school. These rules summarise what it means to be a Starehian. With a deeply entrenched culture of brotherhood, Starehians are hardworking and self-driven individuals who aim for the highest standards possible in all their endeavours. Trained to lead and serve, Starehians are known for their uprightness and diligence that has seen many of them rise to high positions of influence of in public service, business, academia and beyond.

“If you’re given a coffee cup to wash, wash it like it has never been washed before.” This is the Starehe Way – a culture that instills and values excellence even in the smallest and seemingly menial forms. They young men joining form one, are becoming part of a fraternity that will in many ways define who they become during and after their four years stay at the centre. They will cultivate a relationship that goes beyond, being classmates to becoming brothers, for life.

Hopes and Dreams

Speaking to these young men, one cannot help but be encouraged by the positivity they exude. Neither the boys nor the parents can hide their joy at securing an admission at Starehe. To them this is a lifetime opportunity without which the course of their lives would have probably taken an unfortunate turn. They come to the Centre with great hopes and ambitions not just for themselves, but for their families, community, and society at large.

15-year-old Duncan Mugo, from Igembe South in Meru County, for instance, wants to become a judge. Duncan never got a chance to grow up with his father around since he was imprisoned for life for an alleged crime when he was only 18 months old. This is an experience that has influenced his desire to become a lawyer to deliver fairness to all, regardless of how poor or rich they are.

Help Keep them in School

Recent years have seen a steady rise in academic performance at the school which has rekindled hopes of a return to the top charts of national excellence of yester years. This is thanks to a transformation agenda being implemented by the management that is founded on a culture of excellence, duty of care and the Starehe way.

Before being a school, Starehe is first and fore-most a centre for needy boys. This is a cause that the institution has entrenched at the very core of its work and culture. The school ensures that the boys are well fed, they sleep in comfortable and secure dormitories, are attended to when sick and have a conducive to learn and grow into responsible, well-rounded individuals.

By providing bright but needy boys drawn from all the 47 counties with a place to call home and a descent education, Starehe truly reflects the face of Kenya and is intentional in helping to build a society with less tribalism and more tolerance – a just society founded on high moral principles.

As schools reopen for the new academic year, the form ones will be ready to join their brothers to commence a four-year academic journey at an institution that has so far churned out over 15,000 young men in its 60 years history. Young men that have gone on to lead and transform the society in many ways in Kenya, Africa and around the world.

Since 1959, Starehe was built by and has greatly relied on the generosity of the government, corporates, non-profits, individuals and in the recent years its own alumni. Aside from the continuing students, at least 218 of those who have just joined the school need sponsorship. To ensure that these young men stay in school and complete their high school education, Starehe needs your support. Any form of financial, material, and in-kind support goes a long way to ensure the Centre can sustain operations and achieve its mission to provide care and education for boys in need and inspire them to transform into productive and exemplary members of society.  


The author is an alumnus of Starehe Boys’ Centre & School, Class of 2006.

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