Did you know that the Catholic Church in Kenya runs 7,740 schools, representing 31 per cent of all schools in the country?
This includes 5,821 Primary Schools (27.72 per cent of the national share) and 1,756 Secondary Schools representing (31.95 per cent of the national share), 2,513 Early Childhood Development Institutions, 220 Vocational Institutions and 21 Teacher Training Colleges.
Over the years, Catholic schools, both private and sponsored public, have carved a niche for themselves as top performers in academic work and character formation, taking the top positions in national examinations.
Some of the outstanding Catholic Schools in Kenya include Bura Girls and Star of the Sea (Mombasa Archdiocese), Loreto High Schools Limuru, Msongari and Valley Road, Precious Blood Riruta, Maryhill School Thika, Mang’u High School, Huruma Girls, St Mary’s Msongari, Strathmore School, Apostolic Carmel (Nairobi Archdiocese), Muranga High School and Mugoiri Girls (Muranga Diocese).
Others are Bishop Cavalella Girls and St Paul’s High School (Marsabit Diocese), Bahati Girls and Rongai Boys (Nakuru Diocese),
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St Mary’s Igoji and Nkubu High School (Meru Diocese), Mukumu Girls and St. Peter’s Seminary (Kakamega Diocese), St. Anthony Boys, Tartar Girls and St. Brigids Kiminini (Kitale Diocese), Moi Girls High School and Mother of Apostles (Eldoret Diocese), Muthale Girls (Kitui Diocese), St Mary’s Yala and Rang’ala Girls (Kisumu Archdiocese) and St Mary’s Boys and Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls (Nyeri Archdiocese), St Joseph Rapogi,Thomas Moore Nguviu Boys, Embu, Mbooni Girls, St Mary’s Narok to name just a few.
To ensure that her schools excel all round, the Church has mounted the following professional development courses: Making Life’s Responsible Choices, a HIV/Aids intervention programme aimed at training parents, teachers and communities to effectively respond to HIV and Aids, STIs, Environment Education and other emerging issues affecting learners. It has come up with an intervention programme aimed at increasing education access, retention and completion among Orphans and Vulnerable Children in marginalised areas.
Catholic schools have nurtured and produced some of the most prominent Kenyans including President Uhuru Kenyatta (St Mary’s School, Msongari), Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu (Loreto Msongari), former Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru (Precious Blood Nairobi), Media Personality Caroline Mutoko (Loreto Valley Road), Buuri MP Boniface Kinoti Gatobu (Nkubu High School), Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa, Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu and Mary Kimonye of Brand Kenya, to name only a few.
So what is their secret?
For the Catholic Church, education is an integral part of its evangelisation mission. Catholic education is value based and the Church draws inspiration from the values taught by Christ, the greatest teacher of all time. These core Christian values include honesty, trustworthiness, self control, integrity, care and compassion, fairness, justice, personal responsibility, respect for others and respect for life.
According to Stephen Munguti, Director Centre for In-servicing of Religious Education Teachers (Cisret), the Catholic Church maintains that among all the agencies of education, the school has a special importance.
“While it cultivates the intellect with unremitting attention, the school ripens the capacity for right judgment, provides an introduction into cultural heritage won by past generations, and promotes a sense of values and realities for professional life,” says Fr Munguti.
“As a church, we believe that each person has an inalienable right to an education corresponding to their proper destiny and suited to their native talents, gender, cultural background and ancestral heritage and therefore, have an obligation to teach values. With the worrying happenings among our young people today, the teaching of values in schools cannot be overemphasised,” he added.
Munguti says a school should prepare its entire programme of formation, both its contents and the methods used, in the light of the vision of the reality from which it draws its inspiration and on which it depends. Says he, “a school must have a common outlook on life based on a scale of valuesin which those who teach in the school believe in and uphold.”
“A Catholic school begins from the principle that its educational programme is intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person,” he adds.
Adherence to this value-based system is at the centre of the success of Catholic schools.
St Mary’s Boys in Nyeri is one of the top performers in national examinations and a model Catholic school. According to the Principal Peter Kobe, St Marys’ is a typical La Sallian school with a strong culture of hard work, discipline and resilience that has been instilled in its students.
“Our teachers have a culture of commitment, resilience and spirit of service,” says Kobe. “The boys who join us emulate our culture of success which has seen us remain the top school in Nyeri County for the last five years,” he adds.
Kobe, whose school posted a mean score of 9.72 in the 2014 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, says in line with the Lasallian traditions, their schools adhere to three pillars: faith formation, academic excellence and dedication to service.
“In faith development, we have Christian Religious Education taught as a compulsory subject in the school and also conduct pastoral programmes for our boys,” says Kobe. “We allow Catholic students to be taught catechism and prepare them for sacraments which are administered by the Archbishop of Nyeri once a year,” he explains.
The Catholic Church will endeavour to continue offering value based education, integrating peace-building and national values.