BITS FROM DOUG

How Hos­pi­tal Hill de­bunked mixed-race ed­u­ca­tion myths l

Business Daily (Kenya) - - MARKET DATA - Ed­u­ca­tion, that tool of so­cial en­gi­neer­ing, re­mained as seg­re­gated as ever dur­ing colo­nial­ism DOU­GLAS KIEREINI re­tired banker and mo­tor­cy­cle en­thu­si­ast dkiere­ini@gmail.com

White so­ci­ety in Kenya ap­peared to have ac­quired some mod­icum of per­ma­nence after World War 11. Kenya was per­ceived as the new land of op­por­tu­nity by the Bri­tish for in­vest­ment, em­ploy­ment in the emerg­ing civil ser­vice and pri­vate sec­tor, and as a premier hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion. The war years had wit­nessed an abat­ing of African na­tion­al­ism and the en­vi­ron­ment gen­er­ally looked ripe for Euro­pean set­tle­ment.

The war had also caused an in­crease in the num­ber of chil­dren of mixed race, the prod­uct of li­aisons be­tween white sol­diers and African women, leav­ing coloured chil­dren be­hind upon their re­turn home after the war. For­tu­nately, the Ro­man Catholic Church came to their res­cue and ed­u­cated the girl chil­dren at Mary Hill School in Thika.

After the war, the num­ber of whites had in­creased rapidly in towns to war­rant lit­er­ary and cul­tural pur­suits to ex­pand, and as they did, West­ern cul­ture be­came more en­trenched, much to the dis­may of Africans.

The English-lan­guage press flour­ished with the Nairobi news­pa­pers the East African Stan­dard and the Sun­day Post, The Kenya Weekly News edited in Nakuru by Mervin Hill, and the Mom­basa daily, Mom­basa Times. The weekly East Africa and Rhode­sia edited by F.S. Joel­son and pub­lished in Bri­tain, was widely read in the colony.

One of the best-known jour­nal­ists in the coun­try was Ed­ward Rod­well, ed­i­tor of the Mom­basa Times and writer of the col­umn “Coast Causerie” printed in that pa­per. A com­pendium of lo­cal lore and his­tory, the ac­tiv­i­ties of lo­cal peo­ple and his own fam­ily, the col­umn cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of its read­ers with gen­tle­ness, charm, wit and typ­i­cal Bri­tish hu­mour.

Broad­cast­ing also flour­ished with com­pères such as the pop­u­lar Alan Bobbè, knowl­edge­able about clas­si­cal mu­sic since his fa­ther was a mu­si­cian in the Royal Phil­har­monic Orches­tra.

Ed­u­ca­tion, that tool of so­cial engi- neer­ing, re­mained as seg­re­gated as ever.

When John Kar­mali, an Is­maili phar­ma­cist and photographer and Joan, an English­woman and also a phar­ma­cist, mar­ried in 1943, they at­tracted the wrath of Euro­peans. They could not get ad­mis­sion for their chil­dren in Euro­pean schools, be­ing of mixed race.

Em­bold­ened by the launch of United Kenya Club, a multi-racial so­cial club in 1947, the Kar­malis started a school for all races in 1949.

The first classes were held in the In­dian High Com­mis­sioner’s din­ing room and later in the Kar­mali’s house. At the mere sug­ges­tion that African chil­dren be ad­mit­ted to the school, the English par­ents with­drew their chil­dren claim­ing that mix­ing races would lower the stan­dard of ed­u­ca­tion.

Later in the year, the pa­ter­nal­is­tic Gover­nor, Sir Philip Mitchell sar­cas­ti­cally promised to help the Kar­malis with their ex­per­i­ment in multi-racial ed­u­ca­tion “if it proved suc­cess­ful” within two years.

Upon Sir Mitchell’s de­par­ture in June 1952, some gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance was made avail­able to the school when Sir Eve­lyn Bar­ing took over in Septem­ber that year. The Kar­malis were given land on Hos­pi­tal Hill Road (now State House Road) next to State House, where they started Hos­pi­tal Hill School, the first truly multi-racial school in Kenya, in a three-roomed house.

After the Dec­la­ra­tion of Emer­gency at the end of 1952, some quar­ters within the white com­mu­nity and the press thought that multi-racial ed­u­ca­tion might be a so­lu­tion to the un­rest. Hos­pi­tal Hill School slowly and re­luc­tantly gained ac­cep­tance.

When Dr Julius Kiano re­turned to Kenya from Amer­ica in 1956, his chil­dren went to Hos­pi­tal Hill School which was just across the road from their house. Through mem­ber­ship of United Kenya Club, Dr Kiano and Tom Mboya be­came close friends with Glo­ria and Gor­don Hag­berg, an Amer­i­can cou­ple work­ing in Kenya. Gor­don was work­ing with the United States In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices (USIS) while Glo­ria was a teacher at Hos­pi­tal Hill School.

After Gor­don left gov­ern­ment ser­vice he joined the Wash­ing­ton­based African-amer­i­can In­sti­tute be­com­ing the Di­rec­tor of the East African of­fice of the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion where he helped or­gan­ise the stu­dent air­lifts to Amer­ica be­tween 1959 and 1962.

Hos­pi­tal Hill School con­tin­ued to grow and main­tained high stan­dards in aca­demic per­for­mance, de­bunk­ing the myth that mixed race ed­u­ca­tion would lower aca­demic stan­dards by beat­ing Euro­pean schools in na­tional ex­am­i­na­tions. Need­less to say, only well-heeled par­ents could af­ford to en­roll their chil­dren at the school in those days.

In the early 1960s, the school moved to its cur­rent lo­ca­tion on Park­lands Road and was handed over to the Nairobi City Coun­cil in 1973.

To­day, it is a mixed day school with a stu­dent pop­u­la­tion of over 1,700 and con­tin­ues to be one of the best per­form­ing schools in Nairobi County.

No­table alumni in­clude, Mars­den Madoka, Udi and Noni Gecaga, Shereen Kar­mali, Christina Pratt, Paula Schramm, Mar­garet Mas­bayi, Julie Alicker, Ni­cholas Pringle, Njeri Karago, Jane Kar­iuki, Jeff Koinange, Charles Radier, Amolo Ng’weno and Wahu Kagwi among oth­ers.

When Dr Julius Kiano re­turned to Kenya from Amer­ica in 1956, his chil­dren went to Hos­pi­tal Hill

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