By Isaac Blessings
Banda School is a British international institution in Kenya with a rich history dating back to 1966 when it first opened its doors to 24 students, eight teachers and a headmaster. The elite school-founded by Jim Chitty and his wife-adopted the British education system which is by all intent and purposes more superior that the Kenyan 8-4-4 education system. Most of the learners are whites, Indians and children of expatriates and a few from rich Kenyan families.
In this article, WoK brings you the story of how Banda School came to be.
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Jim Chitty’s journey
Tycoon Jim Chitty moved into the country with his wife in the late 1930s when Kenya was still under British colonial rule. They settled in Eldoret. At that time, most Europeans were practicing large scale tea, coffee and maize farming. Jim had a totally different idea and approach from his fellow countrymen. He wanted to set up a primary school and not go into farming. A few years down the line, Jim was able to raise enough funds and established Kaptagat Preparatory School in Eldoret.
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The school was a major success with children of the white settlers enrolling to the school. At some point the school had a total enrollment of 1,956 students mainly drawn from the surrounding areas. However, in 1966, the Dutch government offered a lump sum amount to purchase the School in order to transform it into a farmer’s training center.
Setting up Banda Hotel
After selling and closing down Kaptagat Preparatory School in Nairobi, Jim and his wife relocated to Nairobi where they had earlier bought a small piece of land from the British Army in 1942. The piece of land was situated in the neighborhoods of Karen just opposite Nairobi National Park. This time round he decided to set up a hotel since he perceived the area to be in a strategic position to attract clients. He established the Banda Hotel in 1943 – a hotel that had a bar, restaurant and offered accommodation services. The hotel embraced the Kenyan culture since some of its rooms were traditionally built with mud, wattle, grass and the roof was made up of makuti. The hotel became a huge success attracting a large clientele from the few wealthy and highly educated Kenyans, the European settlers and the British army.
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Transforming the Hotel into a School
Despite the hotel venture being a success, Jim wasn’t satisfied and felt that there is more that he could do and achieve. That’s when he came up with an outrageous idea of transforming the successful hotel into a school. He identified a market gap in the area and saw an opportunity to set up an international school. The school would majorly focus on offering a safe space for the British parents who were not comfortable sending their children to boarding schools back in their home country. Jim and his wife closed down the hotel, fired the employees and modified some of the accommodation rooms into classes, laboratories, staff-rooms and other school facilities and the rest as they always say is history.
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Currently, Banda School is among the most-preferred prestigious learning institutions in Kenya and is among the largest Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) schools in the world that is outside the United Kingdom. The school is currently under the able leadership of Miss Ali Francombe who acts as the School headmistress.
“From our high academic standards and continued sporting excellence to our extensive array of co and extracurricular programmers, our dedicated and progressive teaching staff remain keen to draw the very best from all of the boys and girls in its care,” Francombe reveals as part of her welcome message found in the school website.
Activities offered at Banda School
Apart from normal studies, the school offers extracurricular activities such as tennis, music classes, swimming, ballet and football. It also offers opportunities for students to travel to South Africa, Japan and China among other countries to widen their world view. The school came to the public attention back in June 2012 when one of the helicopters that was flying students to the school made an emergency landing in the villages of Mathira, Nyeri County. This is after the pilot had encountered bad weather during their sojourn. However, no child was harmed during the terrifying incident.
Fees September 2021-August 2022 (Per Term Kshs)
Year 1-Kshs. 380,000
Year 2-Kshs. 585,000
Weekly (full time)-195,000
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