St Mary’s School Yala is among the oldest in the country, having been established in 1927. The extra county school is situated in Yala town along the Kisumu-Busia highway.
It has been a top performer in both academic and co-curricular activities for many years.
The school has played a significant role in development of education as well as the spread of Christianity in pre- and post-colonial Kenya alongside Alliance High School, Kabaa High School and Maseno School, among others.
Its birth revolves around Monsignor Gorgonius Brandsma, who together with a group of Mill Hill Missionaries from Holland, landed in Kenya in 1901.
Upon arriving in Kenya, the Catholic Missionaries focused on expanding catholic education. They were stirred by the knowledge that the Protestants and the Anglicans were ahead in education development in the country.
The Catholic Church at the time only boasted of Kabaa and Mang’u, which were initiated by Father Michael Witte under Holy Ghost Fathers.
On the other hand, the Protestants already had a good number of primary and secondary schools countrywide, with Maseno and Alliance already leading the way in secondary education.
The land on which St Mary’s Yala stands was donated by local chief, Odera Akang’o after being persuaded by the missionaries.
Initially, the focus was to build a college to train teachers who would later be posted as evangelists to counter the dominance of Protestants.
However, this goal was not realised since not many Kenyans were keen to become teachers or evangelists. The founders resolved to turn the institution into a primary and junior secondary school in 1927. In 1957, the school started offering A- levels.
In extra-curricular activities, the school has been excelling in sports such as rugby, beating the likes of Alliance, Kakamega High, Maseno School and Meithienie High, among others.
Former students also remember Alphonce Wayodi, a chemistry teacher who was so gifted he made the subject lively and friendly to learners.
Many students recall looking forward to his lessons because he mixed teaching with cracking jokes. It is said that no student could doze or abscond class during his lesson since they were always enjoyable.
St Mary’s Yala, or “the Gentlemen school” as it’s popularly nicknamed, is instrumental and popular for modeling upright and visionary leaders.
They include the late Tom Mboya, who was a trade unionist, freedom fighter and Cabinet minister in Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s government, before he was felled by an assassin’s bullet in 1969. Other notable alumni, who were led by the motto “Shine in Everything Everywhere” include Prof John Lonyangapuo, West Pokot Governor, Mukhisa Kituyi, former UNCTAD Secretary-General and Trade minister, Richard Onyonka, Kitutu Chache South MP, Justice George Odunga, High Court judge, Peter Oloo Aringo, former Education minister, Nicholas Okwach, Heartstrings Entertainment, and Erastus Otieno, aka Flaq, renowned comedian.
Others who wore dark blue pullovers, blue trousers and white shirts include Prof Joachkim Osur, vice chancellor, Amref International University, Justice Fred Radido, High Court judge, Justice Emmanuel O Kubasu, High Court judge, Dr Julius Jwan, Basic Education Principal Secretary, David Ngesa, data scientist, Emmanuel Nyabera, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman and David Odongo, former senior journalist with Standard Group.