Starehe founder Geoffrey Griffin was a young civil servant in Nairobi, when he witnessed the plight of Kenyan street children, orphaned during the Mau Mau uprising of the 1950s.
Determined to help, he joined forces with Geoffrey Geturo Gatama and Joseph Kamiru Gikubu, former child detainees at the Manyani detention camp.
Some years previously, Dr Griffin had succeeded in providing these boys with a path out of the camp and into education, with Joseph going on to become a Head Boy. They decided to join Dr Griffin in establishing a place of safety that had as its aim ‘the care and education of boys who are orphaned, disadvantaged or otherwise in need of help’.
A visionary approach
From the start, the three founders pioneered an innovative educational philosophy, giving each student a large measure of responsibility in shaping their school; an approach still evident in the culture and ethos of Starehe today.
Under Dr Griffin’s visionary leadership, Starehe grew to become a model of good practice, not just in Kenya but within the whole of East Africa.
He wrote an influential book on school management and eagerly shared his ideas with visiting Head Teachers – and via the Round Square Conference; a worldwide association of leading schools, whose systems are directed at educating ‘the whole person’, in line with the thinking of educational philosopher Kurt Hahn.
In 1971, at a child welfare seminar in Nairobi, Dr Griffin outlined his personal philosophy, in a way that still resonates:
“We want our young people to leave school, not expecting to be spoon-fed by the government but with a realistic knowledge of the problems and the initiative to overcome them.”
Dr Griffin died in 2005, but his guiding principles live on in the staff and students of both Starehe schools:
“Whatever is your duty, do it as fully and perfectly as you possibly can. And when you have finished your duty, go on to spare some of your time and talent in service to less fortunate people, not for any reward at all, but because it is the right thing to do. Follow my advice in this and I promise you that your lives will be happy and successful.”