Braeburn’s roots go back to 1968 when a Kindergarten was opened by an English woman in a house, (long since demolished) that was located in what now is the car park at the front of the present school. She called it Braeburn House International School. The school grew and over the next ten years a few classrooms were added to accommodate the expansion into the Primary age groups.
In 1979 the school was bought by a company formed for the purpose, Braeburn Limited. At that time the school consisted of the house, the additional classrooms, a carport, and a small playing field with eucalyptus trees at the bottom end. What is now the Foundation Stage building had walls but no roof. There were a total of 79 children on roll and six teachers. The name was changed to simply Braeburn School.
The name 'Braeburn' has its origins from "Burnbrae", which was the colonial name for this part of Nairobi. Burn and Brae, in turn, being the Scottish "burn" for stream and "brae" for hill.
At the time of purchase the school was in a very poor state, there had been little investment and the number of children on roll was fast diminishing. There were Jacaranda trees everywhere and the grounds were often purple with blossom. The school colours were purple - two different shades on the walls and the windowsills. The children were purple too - or at least their uniform was! The new management took over the school on April 1st 1979 (an auspicious date!) and things soon started to turn around. There was not much money but a lot of enthusiasm. As the school grew in numbers there was not enough teaching space and even the carport mentioned above was turned into a classroom.
The first major addition was the swimming pool part funded by a KSh 3000 loan from each of the parents to be repaid on their children leaving. This facility added to the growing popularity of the school.
Parents started asking where their children would go for secondary education. This lead to an extension of the years in Primary into what is now Years Seven and Eight. The Gitanga Road compound being only three and a half acres at the time (It is now over 13 acres) could not sensibly go any further. A new site was needed and in 1982 an unfinished kindergarten was found in Garden Estate. It was on two and a half acres but we made the buildings habitable and moved the secondary section there. This was only meant to be temporary while a larger compound was found but, in 1985 we managed to purchase 23 acres adjoining the plot and this became the permanent site for the secondary school.
Meanwhile back at Gitanga Road plans were being made for a new main building consisting of the theatre/assembly hall, sports hall/dining area, kitchens and offices. This was built in 1985. Initially the theatre was just a shell awaiting the funds to be able to furnish and equip it. This process was accelerated by the Donavon Maule Theatre closing where we were able to buy all the seats and some of the back stage apparatus. All this was modified in our workshops and fitted into the shell.
Doubling as an assembly area, the theatre was a welcome addition as previously children had to squeeze into a very small hall where the present Year Five classes are. The stage in the first hall was a wooden platform and all were eager to perform on a real stage. The original school hall was used as a mini cinema on Friday evenings. The school had its own cine-projector and the 20th Century Cinema would rent films out. The films were very popular as it was in the days before satellite dishes, before DSTV and before the advent of DVD libraries. (The cost of a seat was KSh 5/-). With the theatre there was now somewhere to hold assemblies, school plays etc. and speech days. Previously they had to take place on the field as the whole school used to attend.
The sports facilities have been improved considerably over the years. Before the pool was built, children were sent by bus to various places such as the YWCA, Impala Club and the Kenya Science Teachers College, which took up a considerable amount of their swimming time. The school playing field was originally sloped at quite an angle away from the main building, this was levelled and expanded as any house or plot adjacent to the school site was purchased. In all, the compound now consists of 11 separate plots.
The opening of the present sports centre was very exciting when it eventually happened in January 2003. For a long time previous to that it had stood as an unfulfilled promise of what was to come. Work had originally begun in 1996. Apart from providing a huge indoor sports hall it was also meant to vastly improve the sports facilities for the school and community, bringing with it dreams of a gym with exercise machines, saunas and steam rooms, squash courts and an indoor heated pool. Most of this has now come to fruition.
A major change to Gitanga Road happened from 2001. Children going to Braeburn High School at Garden Estate were spending two to three hours a day on school buses. This wasn’t acceptable and the decision was made to move first Years Seven and Eight back to Gitanga Road and then Years Nine, Ten, and Eleven (up to IGCSE) leaving the Garden Estate compound as just a Sixth Form College. To accommodate these children the new secondary school was built. Prior to the secondary school hall being built parts of the Sports complex were used for the secondary dining and assembly purposes. Boarders from Garden Estate were housed (rather luxuriously) in the new ‘Hotel’ that was built to house visitors to the school.
In 2010 the Sixth Form Centre was opened at Braeburn School. This attractive building next to the Sports hall now completes the school and enables children from 3 – 18 years old to begin and end their basic education in one place. The latest addition to this campus came at the end of 2013 in the form of a brand new covered, all-weather Astro Turf pitch, making Braeburn the only school able to offer such a fine sporting facility. There are still plans to continually improve the physical facilities at this Braeburn’s original home; rebuilding the primary school classroom block, a second swimming pool, a covered way and pavilions around playing fields. This on top of what’s required in the classrooms to keep up with the best practices of international education.
Whilst this brings us up to date as far as Braeburn School is concerned, it is only part of the story, for much else was happening within the expanding Braeburn Group.
In 1993 a 7½ acre green field site was acquired off Muthangari Road, Lavington. This became the home of Braeside School- a school targeted at mainly Kenyan children. It opened in January 2004 with 12 children. Now it has 950. Like Gitanga Road it now can educate children throughout their school careers. Braeside’s Sixth Form Centre was opened in September 2011 thus completing the school.
In 2000 Braeburn bought St. Georges School in Arusha, Tanzania. The school was renamed Braeburn Arusha International School and a new primary school was built on the existing site. The school has grown and now has nearly 500 children on roll, again offering an education to children from 3 – 18 years of age.
In 2004 an agreement was reached between Braeburn and the owners of Mombasa International School that with effect from 1st September 2004 Braeburn would take over this school in Shanzu, north of Mombasa. The agreement was that Braeburn would own the school business and lease the existing property. It is a delightful school and a great asset to the group. To have a base at the coast is of benefit to us here, and for MIS to have a base in Nairobi is of great help to the children at the coast. The school was renamed Braeburn Mombasa International School. Braeburn’s inability to develop the school on leased land lead to, in 2010, buying 23 acres of land in Bamburi and building a brand new school into which to move the existing children. This new school, with weekly boarding facilities, was completed and opened in September 2012.
In 2007 Braeburn took over Kisumu International School now Braeburn Kisumu International School. This was a small school owned and managed by parents, and at the time threatened by closure. The directors considered the school would be better off under professional management and came to Braeburn. The area and school has significant potential for the future.
In 2008 Braeburn acquired what was then the Podo School in Nanyuki. This small school was housed in rented property. Again it was the parents who approached us to take over the school. We bought 11 acres of land and built a small Primary School - Braeburn Nanyuki International School, to accommodate the existing children and allow the school to grow.
In 2010 we were approached by the directors of Imani School in Thika. The school was in trouble with a falling roll and having difficulties making ends meet. The school building and the land was owned by Del-Monte Limited and the school business owned by the parents who had taken over the school management from Del-Monte some years previously. Braeburn arranged a lease from Del-Monte and took over the school. The intention being to acquire land, build new school buildings and relocate the school. 20 acres of land was acquired on Mangu Road, Thika and in September 2013 the children and teachers moved across to their brand new, modern school, the likes of which has never been seen in little old Thika. It is now the thriving, growing Braeburn Imani International School.
So much has happened over the years since 1979 when we first acquired Braeburn House International School and this is certainly not the end of the story. The benefits to our schools of being part of such a large family are countless. For example, there is the sharing of expertise, resources and experience. In recent years, as a group, we have been able to focus more on the professional development of our teachers through tertiary education and through bringing out highly recognised InSeT (In service training) providers from overseas. These facilitators help to ensure the teaching methodology and content of our curriculum are up-to-date with current trends in the UK. During the training sessions, teachers get the chance to meet colleagues from other Braeburn schools and as a result links and support networks are established across the schools.
Just as theories in Education continue to change and evolve, so must we as a school. We must believe the next generation is better than the one that has been if there is to be any future. We continue to look for ways to improve so we can ensure the education and experiences received by all who walk through our doors is the best it can be. We don’t just believe in life-long learning, we live and breathe it on a daily basis!