Monday, 7 March 2016

Kianda - My All Girls Catholic High School

Kianda's Class of 1983 (missing me because I was taking the picture)

In January 1980, I started high school in Nairobi, the high school was Kianda. I would be there for six years of my life from 1980 to 1985, doing both my 'O' levels (Form 4/Grade 11) and 'A' levels (Form 6/Grade 13). The name Kianda was better known in those days as a secretarial college. Our grade was the fourth batch of students going through this new school. 

The school was run by Opus Dei, a faith-based Roman Catholic institution run by very religious lay people. This is the history of Opus Dei in Kenya;
Monsignor Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the Roman Catholic Priest who started Opus Dei.
All our teachers were women and most who were of the Opus Dei order were not married and had a deep conviction that God wanted them to do more with their life for Him. This is a lovely article about how Kianda was founded;

My first memory of Kianda is going to sit for the entrance exam. I remember the English test being so difficult and I have no idea how I got into the school but I did!

The school was located on Waiyaki Way past Aga Khan High School and just a little while after Nairobi school next to Kabarsiran Avenue. It was one building with two floors, forms 1 and 2 and one floor and forms 3 and 4 on the second floor and balconies that overlooked the front of the school. Labs were on the sides of the building.

The Uniform

From Form 1 to 4 our uniforms were a kind of dog-tooth checkered skirt and tie, a white shirt, a grey sweater, white socks and black shoes. We also had a navy blue blazer with a crest of the school on the pocket for special occassions. For Form 5 and 6, the tie changed to a burgundy with the school crest on it and a navy blue sweater. The rest stayed the same.

This is when I went back to see Kianda in 2010 - 25 years later! This was our uniform in Forms 5 & 6 (no scarves then though! Can't believe they need scarves in Nairobi - this was June though! The winter of Kenya)

We had blue lapcoats that tied in the back and oh boy we had bloomers! I can't remember what those were for - may be for PE? We had to be well covered up, it was a Catholic school after all!

'O' Levels - 1980 - 1983

The subjects I did for my O Levels were;

English Language
English Literature

Religion was extra

These were our labs for Chemistry, Physics and Biology
During Physics I just looked out the windows at the people playing tennis on the tennis courts

1980 - Form 1

  • Miss Narbon was Spanish with shoulder length hair and a spanish accent. She taught us Mathematics (or maths as we say in Kenya).
  • We hadn't been as school very long when we did dissections in Biology with Mrs. Kagunda, the German teacher who never combed her hair but was a good teacher so what did it matter any way?! We dissected a cow's eye and a frog!! No wonder I didn't think of going into medicine!
  • The art class was close to the Secretarial college. The Art Teacher, Mrs. Paxton gave us this really interesting art project to do once - she cut out half a page of a face from a magazine and we had to draw the other side. My drawing didn't turn out very good at all, but Rosemin Merali's was great!
  • We had a great PE instructor and she wanted to enter me in a swimming competition and I said no! I'm not sure why and she was very disappointed.
  • We were in Chemistry class and Lorna touched my calf with a spatula of a bunson burner. I was so shocked, I cried and cried and cried. I cried a lot in those days for little things. I was a sensitive kid!
  • In 1980, Pope John Paul II came to Kenya. I never got to see him, but Kianda sang for him.

1981 - Form 2

  • I can't remember who my teacher was, but I remember Mrs. Bogonko who was our Geography teacher. I will not tell you why I remember her, but the reason for remembering her are Lorna and Scola who were the cheeky monkeys of the class! 
  • Makenna Nyambo left to go to Loreto Convent Msongari. 
  • Amrit Sohanpaul entertained all us good Catholic-going-school girls with her boyfriend Shane's stories.
  • During Form 2, we moved to Parklands and Rosemin Merali used to give me a ride to school. I remember hearing on their radio on the way to school that Bob Marley had died. Rosemin left for Canada the end of Form 2.
  • Our French teacher who's name I have also forgotten was very good. She brought in a felt board once with felt characters to tell a story in French.
  • In Needlework class (is that what it was called?) we made an apron and a skirt.
  • I also loved the cookery class where I learned to make upside down pineapple cake.

We made lots of yummy things in Cookery class,
Pineapple Upside Down Cake which I had never heard of before was one of them.

During one of the holidays in Form 2, I think it was Miss Roche who sent us home with homework to write a book. I was so excited about the project and probably wrote one chapter, but never finished it!

1982 - Form 3

  • This wasn't at school, but it was with school friends. I remember going out partying with the girls. I can't remember where we went, how we got there and how we got home, but I remember getting ready at Scola's house once and at Elizabeth Weya's house another time. I remember wearing a gold headband - you know those things you wore across your forehead to look cool in the 80s?!!
Kianda's Class of 1983 (missing me because I was taking the picture)
Front Row from L-R: Rosalind Wamwere, Betty Manguriu, Patricia Njiithi, Elizabeth Weya, Scolastica Wankya, Lorna Dias, Doris Njoroge, Margaret
Second Row: Pauline Muriuki and Regina Mathenge  (half hidden) (RIP)
Back Row: Ellah Beauttah, Mercy Njagi, ?, Anjna Rughani, Anne Marandu, Miss De Souza, MaryAnne Kariuki (RIP), Frances Pires, ?, Anne Wainaina, Leah Kagumba, Sabina Gathendu, Lucy Otieno.

Others not in this photo (and may have been in other the other streams, and may have left or not arrived yet but in the same year at some point): Jackie Mugalo, Bettina Ngweno, Makenna Nyambo, Amrit Sohanpaul, Asmi Parmar, Gemini Parmar, Sima Patel (?), Sophie Damji (?), Farzana Datoo, Rosemin Merali (let me know of others if you're reading this.

My friend Pauline Muriuki put this picture up on Facebook on June 25, 2010 and there were a lot of conversation threads, but these ones between Pauline Muriuki and Lucy Otieno talk about where the girls are now!

Hey Lucy, actually I’ve had this pic. in my album for years! I love it! Yeah, I often wonder where some of the girls are too. At least I know where you, Scola, Betty, Anne Wainaina, Lorna and Minaz (not in pic) are. I heard that Leah is in Rwanda, I bumped into Mercy Njagi in coast last year and she looks great, Doris is on FB As you know, MaryAnne Kariuki and Regina passed, God rest their precious souls in peace, heard from Minaz that Elizabeth Weya is a doctor in the UK. Don’t know about the res. What about you, do you know where some of them could be?? Hope you’re well. Take care hon.

The only person, other than the ones you’ve mentioned that I still maintain contact with is Jacqui Mugalo. She’s not on FB though. The girl kneeling right in front of me is also on FB, Margaret, she’s under the name “Shukran Maisha”. I think we reconnected through Betty. Otherwise I’m clueless as to where the others are. My gosh, I recognize the name but don’t have a face. Btw, didn’t know Maryanne passed. Otherwise hope UG is treating you right, ttys…..xoxo

The rest are AnneRose, Ellah Beuttah, Patricia, Sabina Gathendu, Rosalind, Anju and Sea louse (girl on right side Mrs. D’souza that was my nickname for her, can’t remember her real name for the life of me!) and Anne Marandu. UG is treating me very well but I’m kinda homesick, so I think I’ll take a little holiday soon. Hope you’re well there in the US of A!

1983 - Form 4

  • This may have been the year I got my ears pierced! I had pierced ears (by a dentist!) when I was younger, but they had got blocked, so I decided to let Scola pierce my ears, she was a doctor's daughter after all!  She had me sit on the toilet seat and pulled out a needle, black thread and some spirit and got to work. It wasn't the needle going through my ears that was painful, but the pulling of the thread through the hole every day! 
  • For everyone's birthday's we'd collect 1 shilling from everyone and buy every girl a present and a card on her birthday. I still have the earrings that I got! 
  • We did our 'O' lefts in November. Towards the end of school, some of us planned we wanted to go to Outward Bound. Pauline was the one that pulled it all together for us. The office where we registered was across from the Norfolk. 

'A' Levels - 1984 - 1985

For A Levels you had to pick three subjects to do and I picked English Literature, Geography and Economics. Miss Roche taught us part of Literature, don't know who else did. Geography was taught by this English expat no-nonsense teacher with short hair who had just had a baby and I can't remember the name of the teacher that taught Economics, but she was short and wore glasses.

This is when I went back to see Kianda in 2010 - 25 years later! This was our uniform in Forms 5 & 6 (no scarves then though! Can't believe they need scarves in Nairobi - this was June though! The winter of Kenya). These two girls were daughters of former girls who had been to Kianda, one of them is MaryAnne's niece and the other is Anne Thairu's daughter.

1984 - Form 5

I can't remember if it was Form 5 or 6, but Farzana Datoo and I used to go for tuition for Economics. Her mum would pick us up, feed us dinner and the tuition guy would come to her house.  

Ghanian Dance - Interhouse talent show.
The girls I remember: Josephine Mulinge, Benedicta Musembi, Alison Muiyiro, Grace Kibe, Me, Anne Gichuru, Jane Mathenge, Catherine Kamau, Florence

My Facebook Conversation with Alison when she put up this picture on Sept 17, 2015 for Throw Back Thursday (TBT):

OMG, Alison, you have a photo of it! You are an absolute darling! I think about our awesome Ghanian dance often! Can't believe Ciru Robbins' (Pauline Muriuki's) mum had all those outfits to loan us! And we made those funky necklaces out of the silver foil paper from cigarette packs! I still remember bits of that song "Oto fonyo bi, Oto fonyo bi, Oto fonyo bi jyoba nyoba joto fo... Eh bajo, bajo, bajo... Bajo, bajo, bajo, Oto fonyo bi jyoba nyoba joto fo" AWESOME #TBT... Thanks for digging it out 30 years later!

Aww crokoots you haven't changed either, it's like time stood still. About the gals, I'm in touch with Gladys karanja- Kinyanjui as we have a group with some of our old classmates. Mercy, Janette, the two Winnies, (Kiarie & Wine-home), Ellah, Jackie, Elizabeth, Catherine, yellow line, Anne Gichuru ..... I'll slot you in too! 

It is exactly 30years ago! Wow,Minaz Asani-Kanji you have an impeccable memory , totally forgot about the necklaces. You haven't changed a single bit yourself girl ! And yes Pauline's mum loaned us the outfits! I too do remember some of the words of the song though ' Kanowa aaah aye, kanowa aaah aye, kanowa x2 .Kanowa beku pimpim, pimpim beku asante oh kanowa !! Now, I wonder what the lyrics mean

1985 - Form 6

In the last year of school, we planned a trip to Mombasa and Tsavo. I touched an elephant in the Tsavo (these elephants had 24 hour protection) and got chased by a pelican (I invaded its space for a photo!) in Mombasa.  


Kianda wasn't a very big school. There was the secretarial college on the side and our building only had Form 1 - 4. When Form 5 and 6 started, they used the secretarial residences building. We didn't have much space for sports and no swimming pool, so head over to the nearby Nairobi school for PE (Physical Exercise). There was a van that was used to shuttle us back and forth. I particularly remember cross county and swimming.  We'd come back and dash out of the van to race down the corridors of the secretarial residences to get first dibs in the showers!


Lunch was great at Kianda. They had a catering school where they taught women how to cook and get jobs in the field. The entire school had sit down lunches every day in the large dining room. We'd avoid the headmistress' eye otherwise you'd have to sit at the head table. We got a meal and dessert. I remember the Spanish omelette!

After lunch, I remember hanging out with the girls on the benches on the beautiful grounds of Kianda. We'd just hang out in sun and talk till the bell rang! When the song Careless Whispers by George Michael came out, we were all in love with it and one of the girls recorded just that one song over and over and over again on both sides! and we still didn't get sick of it!

Transportation to School - Matatus

The school was just before Kangemi, about a half an hour drive from Westlands (I didn't think it was that far, but that's what Google says). I used to take the matatu to school from Westlands. Matatus were mini-vans used for public transportation. They filled them to the brim and drove like maniacs - always trying to get there before the next one and pick up as many passengers as possible. There were the run down matatus and then the newer ones and of course we always wanted waited for the newer ones with the best of the 80s music! The ticket fare collecter or the 'tout' who would pester people to get into their matatus and would usually be swinging out of the matatu with one hand!
Just in case you're enthralled by them, you can read all about matatus here;

Matatu or Ma3 as they are affectionately called with the tout half hanging out calling out for passengers!

The Books We Read

The books I remember reading in Literature were Ngugi wa Thiongo's 'The River Between' and Shakespeare's 'King Lear'. You couldn't get two more diverse books. I think we also did Chinua Achebe's 'Things fall apart'. 

School Trips

There are two trips that I recall and both have to do with food! The first was the Cadbury's factory! Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate! I remember a pot as big as a room churning chocolate! And then we went to a little crisps (chips in North America) factory. Of course when you went to school in Kenya, there were always the trips to the Bomas of Kenya and the Animal orphanage.


Miss Sequera - Religion. I went to Kianda in 2010 when we were visiting Nairobi and walked into the office to see if there was anyone I knew. Lo and behold Miss Sequera who hadn't changed one bit was the prinicipal and I didn't have to introduce myself after 25 years! She said my name as I walked in. How lovely it was to meet her!
Miss Sequera

Miss Roche - She was the Principal and also taught English Literature. I have connected with her on Facebook and you would think after going through all the girls she has taught over all those years, she would have a hard time remembering, but she didn't, she remembered me and it was so nice reconnecting.

Miss Roche

Miss Njogu - Chemistry - I found this photo on Facebook. I had forgotten Miss Njogu till I saw this! She could be strict in class, but outside of class, she was so nice!  That was the nice thing about the lunches at Kianda, you got to know the teachers outside of the classroom setting.

Miss Njogu

Mrs. Kagunda - Biology (the German teacher, good natured with uncombed hair)
Miss Khamisi - Religion (she was short and petite)
Miss De Souza
Mrs. Pires (Frances' mum) - Music

These faces I remember, but can't remember the names;

PE (in Form 1)

So many others I don't remember. If you're reading this, please let me know if you remember other teachers.


Every Wednesday for the entire time I was at Kianda our class had to go to chapel for mass. After mass, Father John would talk to us about living a good Catholic life. The girls would line up for the Eucharist. I always wanted to see what it tasted like but never did. There was then confessional and girls would line up to go to confess.

We used to have weekend retreats at a place in Limuru call Kimlea. It was a beautiful house and those retreats were so much fun.  Lorna, the trouble maker once went into the confessional pretending to be the priest and Scola went to confess her sins to her.  We laughed a lot that day!


I was very shocked and saddened a few years ago to find out that a couple of girls in class with me had died, Mary Anne Kariuki and Regina Mathenge. I still can't believe they're gone! May their souls rest in eternal peace.

Social Media

What I love most about Social Media and particularly about Facebook is that it has made the world smaller and people who I may never had contact with again, are Facebook friends and I can catch up or reminesce every so often when someone puts up a Throw Back Thursday (#TBT photo!).  I am on Whats App with a Kianda '85 group that Alison Muiyiro set up. When our family visited Africa in 2010, I was able to connect with a lot of my friends and tried to meet up (missed Pauline in Kampala by a boda boda ride, missed Betty in Nairobi due to missed messages and Scola in Johannesberg as she had to go back to Uganda for her dad's funeral). The only person I did meet up with was Farzana Datoo and it was lovely meeting her and catching up.

Meeting Farzana in Nairobi in 2010.
Trying to cram six years of memories into this one blog is a lot of cramming! I'm sure I've missed so much and many people, but if you're reading this and went to Kianda, I'd love for you to share your memories and let me know who I've missed. It was a great time in my life. I'm so happy to have met all the girls I did and sometimes I have to scratch my head to try and remember which Ann they're talking about on Whats App, but when I see an old picture, I remember instantly! Unfortunately all my Kianda pictures got lost in transit between Kenya and Canada, so if you have any, please share them.

Thank you for sharing Day 17 of 50 with me!

My son Kahzmir's turns 10 on March 13, 2016.
This is his 10 in 10 days Video Blog
Day 4 of 10

Day 4 (2009) - Day Out With Thomas

Thank You for sharing Kahzmir's Day 4 of of 10 in 10 days with him!


  1. I am utterly in awe of your memories. I don't think I could recall, with such detail, my high school years!

    1. It was a good time, but there's so much I don't remember!

  2. Wow Minaz! Such an incredible post! You really amaze me everyday when I read your post.By the way I met your Wise Bird today at The Museum.Shelina Manji who was Shelina Bharwani!Love you!

    1. I tried to cram six years into one post. It was hard! Yes, Shelina from Pickering. She was our Guide Leader!

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