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Controversy surrounds relocation of Kisumu Boys

By Kepher Otieno | February 20th 2021

Kisumu Boys High School in Kisumu county. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Former students of Kisumu Boys High School have threatened legal action against the Kisumu County Government if it goes ahead with planned demolition of the institution.

The Old Boys Association chairman James Mwamu said the exercise should be shelved indefinitely.

The school has been caught in the middle of an urban renewal programme that is being pushed by Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o.

Acting City Manager Abala Wanga had earlier hinted that the school, which sits on 105 acres of land, could be relocated from the central business district (CBD) to the Kibos/Mamboleo area where there is reclaimed land that belonged to the defunct municipality.

Mr Wanga said plans to relocate the school are ‘long term’. “It may not be immediate, but we are saying in future once a new site and modern facilities are put up.”

In the meantime, the status quo remains as the city’s beautification plan, which is also likely to affect the adjacent Kisumu Girls High School, continues to take shape.

According to Prof Nyong’o, a city is commercial-oriented and should be run as a profit-making entity. 

“Although a school provides social services, it gives the city very little returns. Hence it can be moved to cheaper land outside the CBD so long as there are proper roads,” he said.

Conducive environment

The governor said the move would be good for the schools as they would have a more conducive learning environment, away from the noisy town centre.

When it was started in 1948 at the height of the Asian migration from Uganda to Kisumu, the institution was called the Indian School and it for Asian children.

A primary school was relocated to pave way for the secondary section as the Asian population expanded. The school initially admitted boys and girls but it later became a boys-only institution following construction of Kisumu Girls High School in 1961.

But prior to this, the racial discrimination had sparked protests from Africans who wondered why the wealthy émigrés wanted to alienate themselves despite being welcomed to their new home.

Odungi Randa, a former aide to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, recalled how the issue elicited public concern.

“People asked how do you build such a good school in our midst and then lock our children out. We asked the Indians to tell us.”

As tension built up over the years, a meeting to resolve the matter was convened by leaders from the Luo and Asian communities at what is now the Mama Grace Onyango Social Hall.

After independence, the school started enrolling students of African descent–mostly Luos who lived in Kisumu and its environs.

The first African to be appointed as head prefect was Julius Nyawara in 1968, while the first African principal was Daniel Damien Obare Awora who served from 1974 to 1992.

Students at Kisumu Boys High school in Kisumu. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

School principal Peter Obwogo said they have applied to the Ministry of Education to change the institution’s name to Kisumu School.

According to Mr Obwogo, parents often confuse the school’s name with that of Kisumu Day Secondary School and end up paying fees to the wrong institution. “This is one of the reasons we want the school’s name altered,” he said.

The school is credited with having produced a string of leaders in all fields. Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabbir and his Kisumu West counterpart Olago Aluoch are well-known politicians. Former Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma and Kwame Owino, who is the CEO of the Institute of Economic Affairs, are also alumni of the school.

Nurtured talents

Businessmen Kamlesh Pattni and Ketan Somaia are also alumni of the school.

In sports there is Tom Odhiambo, who played for Harambee Stars, Brian Aduda, a professional hockey player, and Quicks Nyakwaka, a rugby player.

The arts are represented by Eric and Fred Omondi, popular comedians who nurtured their talent in the school’s clubs.

Today, the main gate is on Otieno Oyoo Street that leads to the main Kisumu-Busia highway. Adjacent to the school are the Aga Khan Hospital and Kisumu Girls High School.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, one of the main Mosques in the city, and Kisumu Municipal market are a stone’s throw away from the school.

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