When Lenana School students slept at State House

Lenana School [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

Lenana School was founded in 1949 by colonial Governor Philip Mitchell in Karen, Nairobi, on a 240-acre piece of land. Initially known as the Duke of York School, it was named after a British World War II battleship and was reserved for white students.

Known colloquially as 'Changez,' the school welcomed its pioneer cohort of 20 students, who were accommodated at Governor Mitchell's residence, which is currently the State House.

Under the leadership of founding Principal R. H. James, Lenana School provided a comprehensive educational experience. Students were relieved of janitorial, laundry, and groundskeeping tasks to allow them to focus on academics, sports, and leisure activities.

The institution boasted impressive facilities, including a golf course, rifle range, cricket oval, and swimming pool.

In the early 1960s, the school began to diversify, admitting its first black and Asian students. It was renamed Lenana School after Chief Laibon Lenana, a Maasai leader who collaborated with the British.

The name change also brought about a shift in the school's culture, with alumni transitioning from being referred to as Old Yorkists to Laibons. James Kamunge made history as the first African headmaster.

Lenana School had a Combined Cadet Force training course of para-military standards, which included uniforms, guns, ammunition, an armoury, a parade ground with adjacent stores and offices, an obstacle course, and a shooting range.

The course was initiated during the colonial era amidst the Mau Mau uprising and continued until it was stopped by the government after the 1982 coup attempt.

The bell from HMS Duke of York is still mounted on a bell shed at the front of the school parade ground between the school chapel and the hall. Students slept in Moi House, Kirk, Tom Mboya, Ronald Ngala, Delamere, Mitchell, Thompson, and James houses.

They enjoyed beef with ugali for supper on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The sixth-formers, the only ones allowed to wear long trousers, were more feared than the teachers.

The current principal is William Kemei, and the school has a student population of 2,000. 'Changez' has continued to thrive, producing notable alumni who have made significant contributions to various fields, including politics, journalism, conservation, and business.


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