Our journey begins...
Once upon a time (a long, long time ago (1978) a slim young man (me) walked through those gates and popped the question to the owner (no, not that question): “Do you want to sell?” The answer... “If the price is right.”
The rest is history and... what a history! A rather less slim and oldish man (me) will attempt to tell it (or at least some of it). To obtain the ‘right’ price I enticed five friends to chip in; Bill Martin, Ralph Diaper, Aaron Kandie, Peter Moll and Brigadier Lucas Matu. Guess the price?
In April 1979, Ralph and I took over the operations of the school; there were 70 children with numbers fast diminishing. Ralph incidentally was to remain headteacher here at Gitanga Road for the next 20 years, overseeing the first half of our story to date.
What we bought was a dilapidated house, a few classrooms and a plot of 31⁄2 acres. There was little in the way of books or other resources. There were 20 staff, six of whom were teachers.
The first eight months were a mixture of worry and delight...
Worry, because the lady selling the school tried to renege on the deal. It took us several years to sort this out. She eventually settled out-of-court for 30% more than the originally agreed price. Braeburn students can
work out the final price adding 30% to the upside-down price at the bottom!
Looking back, this massively worked to our advantage because, during the dispute, we paid nothing and all the money over that period could be used to improve the school.
Delight, because the school started to slowly but surely turn around. New children started enrolling as confidence in the school grew.
Ah! The 80s – the era of Freddy Mercury’s Queen, Bon Jovi, U2 and Van Halen.
Meanwhile, our journey continues...
Early in the 80s Ralph and I decided we had to have a swimming pool, we must have a swimming pool, the only way forward is a swimming pool... we’re doomed without a swimming pool. Consternation reigned – we couldn’t afford a swimming pool. So, from our still small body of parents we asked whether we could, over a three-term period, add KES 1,000 onto the termly fee of around KES 3,000 to enable us to build the swimming pool. This would be considered a loan that could be paid back when the parent’s children left the school. And... they agreed. As it happened, many of the parents who ‘lent’ us the money never claimed it back! The pool you see now at Braeburn Gitanga Road is the pool we built!
By now the school was growing rapidly. In fact, we became so popular that parents ‘demanded’ we start a secondary section as at that point the school only went up to Year Six. Ralph and I were both secondary teachers, so the challenge presented did not seem so daunting.
We soon ran out of space. We had to convert a garage into a classroom. My wife Jenny taught there – ignoring the huge crack in the wall!
With only 3.5 acres here, it was clear by 1982 that we needed a separate secondary school. So, what to do? We bought and converted an unfinished nursery school in Garden Estate on 2.5 acres as a temporary solution to house our expanding secondary section. The price we paid for that ... but that’s another story.
Back at Gitanga, by 1985 we realised we needed a school hall for assemblies, plays and recitals. We needed a dining hall and kitchens. We needed a big library. We needed an indoor sports area. We needed offices. Up until then, all these things were housed in the classroom block or in the dilapidated house. So, we conceived this building. Where you stand now was the library. The coffee shop didn’t exist.
Opened partially in 1986 (the theatre at that time was just a shell) this building fulfilled all those functions and released space in the classroom block. It was our intention to fit out the theatre as-and-when funds could be found. In 1987 we had a big break; The Donovan Maule Theatre shut down and we managed to buy all the equipment and seats. This formed the basis of the theatre we have now.
You may wonder how we came by the beautiful Steinway grand piano in the theatre – another story.... track me down sometime and I’ll tell it – might cost you a coffee!
At both Gitanga Road and Garden Estate space was becoming more and more of a problem. Over at Garden Estate, in 1984 we managed to buy 26 acres of swampy land at the bottom of the compound. Housed on that now are the teachers’ apartments, the boarding blocks, the sports hall and the new Primary School building (but that comes later).
The Internet raises its head, the Cold War ends, and the Hubble Space Telescope starts to orbit the Earth. Braeburn moves on.
It was in the 90s here at Gitanga that we started to acquire land, and thank goodness we did. In fact, from the time we started to now, we’ve purchased nine adjoining plots and one across the road (to build the apartments where many of our teachers live). Over that time our 3.5-acre campus has grown to 13 acres.
The big Braeburn Story of the 1990s is Braeside. Our third eventually big school. In 1993 our founder Aaron Kandie’s family were allocated 7 acres of land in Lavington to build a new primary school.
Braeburn bought the land at a reasonable price and built Braeside Primary. It was originally intended to be a local 8-4-4 school. However, under pressure from the parents, after two terms the curriculum
was changed to that of England and Wales. The logistics of that was something to behold. On the opening day in January 1994, there were just 12 children. By the year 2000, the numbers exceeded 500 and the school has grown ever since.
Here at Braeburn Gitanga Road, we built the sports complex containing a 19m x 26m sports hall, dance studio, gymnasium and swimming pool on the second floor.
Towards the end of the decade, a major problem became apparent. Braeburn Secondary School at Garden Estate was expected to be the destination of all the Gitanga Road Primary children and at first, it was. However, a combination of distance, time spent on buses, split families and general inconvenience meant that fewer and fewer children were following on. We solved the problem after the millennium...
1999 saw the start of a period where Braeburn started its acquisition phase. The first acquisition was Braeburn Arusha or, as it was then, St George’s International School – our first foray outside Kenya. When Rob Williams and I first visited the school, we unknowingly missed out half of the immigration procedures when crossing the border at Namanga... not that anyone seemed to mind. That gives you some idea of how things have changed.
The 1990s also marked the major change in senior personnel when Ralph Diaper, cofounder and headteacher retired to Malindi after the twenty years that set us up for the future.
Strange. I seem to remember the early times better than more recent times – must be an age thing!
But... since the year 2000, I have archived emails to remind me.
To finish off the land acquisition saga, the last plot we bought here at Gitanga was the car park where the buses sleep. At the time we thought it was the most expensive car park in the world! Today we know better.
Remember the major problem I mentioned – lack of transition from Primary School, Gitanga Road to Secondary School, Garden Estate. Well... we solved it by moving the Secondary School up to the IGCSE level to Gitanga Road. This was phased over a few years. First years 7 and 8 were retained – and we built the Key Stage Three-block and then the rest of the Secondary School as it exists now. To accommodate the Secondary School buildings, we demolished all the houses that were on the land – five altogether.
The 28 acre Garden Estate campus became just a Sixth Form College... but not for long. In 2008 at a seminal board meeting in April, I presented a paper that proposed to expand Garden Estate to a full school from Foundation to A-level/IB diploma. The full school opened in September 2009 and has grown ever since. Guess how many students now?
During this decade we also did a few other things... acquired Braeburn Mombasa (Mombasa International School), Braeburn Nanyuki (formally Podo School) and Braeburn Kisumu (Kisumu International School) – the stories are endless and far too detailed to fit in this page.
In 2007 at the age of 59, I stepped away from being Managing Director and handed over all operational matters to Rob Williams. I became the ‘Vision Navigator’ and oversaw the projects as the schools grew. Handing over to Rob was not a problem and happened seamlessly. He had, de facto as Education Director, been doing the job for years.
We’re approaching the present time. Our fifth decade if you count the 1970s.
In 2012 the Braeburn Seven Squared Rhino Charge Team won the Rhino Charge (a momentous event!).
We now have 10 campuses across Kenya and Tanzania and we are constantly looking to develop and improve the schools as we look to the future.
Here are a few of the highlights since 2010:
Braeburn Gitanga Road: Built the Secondary School Hall/Dining Room, the Primary School Music and Art Building, The Sixth Form Centre, the Receiving Bay/Security Centre and the new three-storey Key Stage Two Building.
Braeburn Garden Estate: Built additional staff apartments, the Key Stage Three Classroom Block, a 400-seat Theatre, the Performing Arts Centre and a 60m bridge over the lake. The school is beautiful – well worth a visit if you haven’t been there.
Braeside: Built the new Sixth Form Centre.
Braeburn Mombasa: Moved out of our rented premises into a brand new purpose-built school on 23 acres.
Braeburn Nanyuki: Moved out of rented premises for the start of the January term 2010 onto land bought from Cottage Hospital. Continued to add classrooms and infrastructure as the school grew. We started at 40 in 2008. The number of children enrolled at the school as of now?
Braeburn Kisumu: Acquired 7 acres of land to build a new school – probably opening 2020. Exciting!
Braeburn Imani: Moved out of rented premises into a brand-new purpose-built school on 20 acres. School growing year-on-year.
Braeburn Arusha Infant School: Built a brand-new Foundation/Key Stage One School in the Njeri’s area and moved out of our rented premises.
Braeburn Arusha Main Campus Kisongo: Built Boarding Blocks for boys and girls.
Braeburn Dar-es-Salaam: Built and opened a new school north of the city centre.
More importantly, during this period, five of our schools obtained CIS accreditation. No mean feat I can assure you. Google CIS accreditation and see what it means.
So, across our 10 campuses, we are currently educating over 4,000 children in Kenya and Tanzania. In addition, our Teacher Training Programmes are thriving. This year we have 60 motivated young Kenyans training to be teachers on a PGCEi scheme. Upon qualification, these teachers will be qualified to teach in international schools all over the World.
At 59 years old I had handed over the reins as Managing Director to Rob Williams. He has now handed over the reins to Andy Hill, coincidentally, also at the age of 59. Andy becomes only our third Managing Director in 39 years. Rob is not leaving us but is taking up a less demanding advisory role. I thank him on behalf of the entireBraeburn Community for his incredible contribution.