Butere Girls’ High School is situated in Kakamega County, Butere Sub-County, and in Marama Central Location. It is one of the oldest institutions in Western Province. It was founded by the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S) as part of their missionary work in Northern Kavirondo in 1912. It an old school in Western region started in 1957 by Church Missionaries. It is a school established on Christian foundation sponsored by Anglican Church.
The school has since grown to be the only National Girls School in Kakamega County. It is now registered Ten (10) streamed school with a population of 1642 girls. Out of 96 teachers recommended by the C.B.E there are only 56 teachers on the ground giving a shortfall of 52.
In terms of infrastructure, the buildings look old because these were the classes that were built by the missionaries and since then very little constructions has taken place. There is only one modern building in the school and that is the Library which is the only storey building in the compound. Much renovation has happened but still the buildings look dilapidated.
Why it Became into Being
This institution came into being as a remedy to the unbalanced education between male and female and so there was need for the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S) to establish a girls’ education institution. This was achieved when Dr. Warren, the Secretary General of C.M.S visited East Africa (Uganda) and asked the leading Africans what help they wished the C.M.S could give to Kenya and the leaders responded that they wished that African girls be better educated.
The African Council of Anglican Church was then asked to select a site and Butere was chosen now that Maseno and Ng’iya were already established by the C.M.S as centers of missionary work. The other reason why this institution came into being was due to the C.M.S competing with the Catholic in Mumias who had already established a mission and they feared that they would spread out to Butere.
There was the desire to begin a girls’ education institution to the influence of the successful Gayaza in Uganda and of St. Anne’s’ in Ibadan, Nigeria as girl’s institutions. Chief Mulama of the Nabongo Mumia administration in Butere also made it possible for this institution to start by offering a site for the establishment of a mission station in Butere.
How it Started
Bishop Willis of the C.M.S church in Uganda sent Arch. Deacon Walter Chadwick form Ireland to start a mission station in Butere with three Baganda Evangelists. Arch. Deacon Chadwick then started a technical school in 1916 whose first permanent buildings were opened by H.E Sir. R.E. Coryndon.
Arch. Deacon Chadwick was joined by the sister, Miss. Chadwick during this year (1916) who concentrated on the girls education while the technical school by 1925 became a teacher training college which trained T4 teachers Luo and Luhya areas. It was then referred to as Butere Normal School.
Miss. Chadwick held her girls classes in separate buildings from the boys who were also taking lessons under the Uganda Evangelist Jesse Weraga. The pupils were mixed, both young and mature girls recruited from the immediate neighborhood. The curriculum included reading, writing, sewing, singing and scriptures.
By 1919, there were problems resulting from the 1st World war which put the girls’ school in a difficult situation for existence due to starvation and diseases that brought to an end the first girls’ school. Miss Chadwick then went back to Ireland on leave and Miss. Pethybridge took over in 1928 and revived the girls’ Day School which was at elementary level (std. 1 – 4). The aim for this girls’ Day School was to educate the mass and to ensure maximum transition of girls. It provided a moderate amount of literacy and practical knowledge rather than concentrating on the intensive education development of a few keen girls
Miss Appleby took over the school leadership in 1931 after Miss. Pethybridge left to concentrate on the health and developed the school into a full primary school upto to std. 6 and the girls now attended lesson five mornings a week and still left the afternoons for teacher training but stayed in school up to 4.00 p.m which met a lot of opposition from the girls’ parents. The afternoon teacher trainings empowered more African Teachers with capacity to teach and handle students, this later saw the first African Techers being one of the staff members.
Miss. Joy Wigram was in charge of the school when Miss Appleby went on leave. The school which was still a day school and then sub – divided into nine groups for the purpose of instruction, corresponding to the departmental elementary classification, namely sub std 3. Girls in the lower groups were mainly elderly and their attendance was very irregular. They came and went at will to suit their convenience .The curriculum however, was not relevant to native life; it was entirely literary. The only practical periods were Agriculture (1 period) and sewing (2 periods) from class one upwards with an additional period for knitting for class 6.
Miss Appleby came back and started building the first Girls’ Boarding School (G.B.S). Half of the money was an anonymous gift from England to the Butere C.M.S station and half of the money came from the government. Three dormitories were built, a common-room, kitchen, chapel and the first 36 boarders (girls) arrived in 1937 with a fee payment of Ksh.40 per year.
Miss Appleby then left the school to concentrate on language translations (of the bible) in the mission and meanwhile, the teacher training college which was now training students from all over Nyanza at F4(O) level between 1947-1954 moved its students from Butere Normal School to Maseno where a T-3 course was started while others moved to Ng’iya to start a C.M.S training college.
Miss Armstrong becamethe Headmistress of the girl’s school and Butere acquired the intermediate status after it entered its first candidates for Kenya African Preliminary Examination (K.A.P.E). This intermediate school however, disappeared two years later. This statues dictated that at the end of the first four years, a common Entrance Examination was sat to promote pupils to Std 5 and then later sat for the K.A.P.E)
In 1956 the girls who then completed class 8(form 2) were able to proceed to African Girls’ High School. (Alliance) for further studies or they would go to B.N.S (Chadwick College) to train as T-3 teachers. Mary Miles was then the headmistress of the girls’ school.
The African Council of Anglican Church was then asked to choose to be developed to secondary school status due to this high demand. The Regional Education Board which consisted of Provincial .Commissioners (P.C), Provincial Education Officers (P.E.O) and a representative of the C.M.S. sat and all agreed that the first girls’ school in Nyanza (which includes most of the present Western province) should be at Butere if sufficient funds were available.
The local clan, ‘Abashirotsa’ generously gave additional land of 13 ½ acres to make the building of a new school. Possible the school was then granted a Board of Governors. The C.M.S. undertook to send an extra staff from England and other Western countries to help build up the standards of the school. They also sent graduate members of staff to the school so that it could develop faster to secondary school level.
With Miss Mary Miles, as the headmistress, the first form 1 class was selected due to lack of any more room students at the African girls’ High school Kikuyu (Alliance) and the fact that standards had gone higher and that there was need for such an institution to come up; there being no new buildings, the intermediate school buildings were used as classes
A new building programme started on the 13 ½ acre land from the local clan, ‘Abashirotsa’ and £950 was given from the Motor Trust Fund for the construction of a laboratory and the school was officially opened on 6th November 1959 having been opened since 1957. By 1960, a dining hall and a Biology laboratory were completed.
Miss Mary Plummer the principal then during and during when the government gave grants to the school. The curriculum included the following subjects: Swahili, English, Maths, History, Geography, Biology, Scripture, Physical Science, Art, Agriculture, Home science, P.E and the co-curriculum included debates, games like netball, hockey, rounders, volleyball, athletics and country dancing. Additionally, there were African teachers from Makerere University, Uganda on teaching practice together with those from England.
The first “A” level class was started which consisted only one art stream. This particular class was supposed to have been taken to Lugulu but due to the suitability of Butere as an institution it was started here. The “A” level class passed very highly (100%) and maintained high passes in examinations. It is during this same year that the government took over the School from the C.M.S even though the church maintained their affiliation to the institution to date.
Butere Girls” High school had its first African headmistress, Miss Alice Barasa who run the school until 1974. During her leadership (1973), Chadwick College, which had been transferred to Siriba and was annexed to Butere Girls’ High School thus giving the school the enormous compound of 63 acres and the benefit of inheriting the Chadwick College buildings.
Mrs. Hellen Omoka became the next headmistress who increased the “O” level streams from 2 to 3 and in 1977 a fourth stream was added which was built through fund-raising while the other were government aided. This same year the first K.J.S.E. was written in this institution and more dormitories built. The student population stood at 650 girls.
The school introduced the first science class in “A” level. By this time the school offered a full, normal curriculum with special subjects like Home-science, Business Education (Typing and Commerce), Fine Art and Physical Education. The clubs had also increased and they were as many as the subjects offered; these included drama, choir, wild-life, young farmers and debate. Games were also very active, the likes of; hockey, netball, volleyball, athletics and badminton with other in-door games.
Mrs. Lorna Ottaro succeeded Mrs Omoka who left for further studies at Kenyatta University (college). She renovated the “A” level classes and completed the physics laboratory. She also continued renovating teachers’ houses, a task started by Mrs. Omoka and she transformed the Chadwick College social hall into the staff-room. With only one unfortunate strike in the same year, normalcy returned and academic excellence followed.
The school celebrated its Silver Jubilee, a historical that brought back some of her first headmistresses, like Miss Mary Miles and quite a big number of old girls too whose status are admired in the society for instance Dr. Miriam Were, Dr. Julia Ojiambo, Lady Justice Effie Owuor to mention a few; during which time money was raised (Kshs. 682,000) together with parents building some class-rooms. The money helped put up more dormitories, staff-houses and a modern kitchen to cater for approximately 800 girls.
Mrs. Sella Liko then took over leadership from Mrs. Ottaro. The school excelled academically and again with the help of donations from His Excellency the President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, a Home-science workshop in preparation for the 8 – 4 – 4 system was constructed which was later completed by parents. During the first 8 – 4 -4 K.C.S.E, the school was among the best top 100 schools and was awarded good discipline and academic performance in 1986 by His Excellency the president after sending 52 girls to Kenya Universities. The school also excelled in co-curricular activities like drama, games and music.
Mrs. Ruth Otieno, took over in December 1993, as Principal of the institutional and a lot changed physically and academically for the good of the institution; the school has introduced Music as a subject thus enriching the options offered in the school. The school posted good KCSE performance and improved drastically in co-curricular activities. However, in 1997 results of 107 students were cancelled almost killing the spirit of competition that had been inculcated.
Mrs. Grace Namai an alumni of the School took over from Mrs. Ruth Otieno. Her Interest in co-curricular activities coupled with the maintained academic excellence inspired more success with results maintaining a normal curve. She greatly improved the school’s aesthetics with the flower initiative in the academic section. The school enrolment went to 1050 necessitating a 6th stream to be registered with parents support.
Mrs. Grace Namai also begun the construction of a new dormitory, Olympus to house 200 students. She improved staffing, initiated processing of purchasing a new school bus and organized a Golden Jubilee celebrations that saw almost all the Alumni from all over Kenya report to the school some even wearing a semblance of the school uniform.
Mrs. Okaalo took over from Mrs. and began improving on facilities by painting classromms, domitories and the school kitchen. The improvement did not leave out academics, in 2013 the KCSE mean grade shoot up to 8.45 with the number sent to university too from 57 from previous year to 97. This improvement stabilized and was the genesis of elevation of to the school to National status in 2012.
Mrs. Omondi J.B, took over in 2016 and began with improving the phase of the school, bringing alumni and parents together. Her leadership has seen a new Dining hall being built, a project that was championed by Her Excellency the wife to the Deputy President Mrs. Rachael Ruto who is also an alumni. The Principal has also started a mega project, building of complex 4 floor classrooms besides pushing performance to a mean of 9.002. Mrs. Omondi looks forward to finishing the started projects whilst maintaining the improved performance!