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Hear from the St Andrews, Turi staff:

What do Teachers do During Breaks?


Those outside the world of education have probably envied teachers a couple of times because of the several holiday breaks in the course of the calendar year.

As insiders, we understand why and how you would see it that way but we can also tell you these breaks unlike the typical annual leave are not simply a matter of legal compliance.

Let’s look at boarding schools for a minute.  The minute a parent walks out of the school gates, the responsibility of raising, teaching and protecting their child lies squarely on the school. These are truly parental responsibilities and while the “system” is set up to organise, it is actual living, breathing, people- teachers, cleaners, accountants, administrators, cooks, matrons  who are charged with actually ensuring the children are clean, fed and healthy- emotionally, physically and importantly in this case academically.

A 24 hour job 

A good number of parents will confess that especially in the formative years of their children’s lives they actually do not sleep, if their child so much as turns in bed in the other room; they hear it and make a dash to check what that is about.  Parenting is a 24-hour job and in the boarding school setting, staff members are on the clock throughout in the same way.  There are also numerous “small” things that are done in addition to reading, writing and ‘rithmetic that are easily overlooked when envying the numerous numbers of days off that teachers get!

End of term blues

For this reason, the breaks are not just a legal requirement but necessary for both parent (teacher, matron, cook) and child (student) to thrive and not merely survive. The truth is (and many educators will tell you this), as you approach the end of term, everyone’s tank is approaching ‘Low” and by the last week most are getting by on fumes and the thought that the holiday is coming.

So what do Turi teachers (and other staff members) do during breaks?. Here, there are two types of teachers. The first who dashes out of the gate immediately the last bell rings and the second who takes a beat within the school compound (it is actually a beautiful, calming scene out here).

Teachers have lives too. They have families to enjoy, meals to cook, songs to sing, gardens to tend to, projects to complete and a whole beautiful country to explore during their breaks.



1976, The once little Prep School that began thanks to a first date that could have ended tragically (more on that story later) and a prayer is 45 years old. St Andrew’s Prep School, Turi has survived infernos, world wars, food shortages, neighbourly feuds (this is the year that Kenya and Uganda fell out after Uganda accused Kenya of playing a role in the Entebbe Airport raid) they later made up – thankfully because the Entebbe Airport sees off a significant number of Turians as they head to school.

1976 is also the year, a young Veronica , barely out of her teens joined the Turi Family. Veronica Maina is a native Turian (if you remember from Mwangi’s story), Turi is a ward in Molo constituency and not simply the name of our school.

Her mother was an employee at the school and Veronica having completed her studies at Turi Sulgwita Secondary School, was offered a job as well. At this point we acknowledge that in a different light and perhaps literally so, this would be considered nepotism. However, family legacies are an enormous part of St Andrew’s success this far. This is especially true about Turi (the location) natives.

Young Veronica joins Turi (the school) as a cleaner. She is content, even happy with her situation. The school has designated a space for  to  call her own together with the school nurses and for a young twenty something she is thriving.

The headmaster then, Mr.  Julian Parker, sees beyond Veronica’s youthful contentment. Based on how she carries out her tasks, engages with the children and how she carries herself in general, he is confident that Veronica has the capacity to do more.

He is not the only one; parents have also taken note of this diligent, humble lass from Turi from their limited interactions with her.  Mr. Parker one day summons Veronica to his office and informs her that the decision has been made to “promote” her to the position of Matron. Promotion is said here in quotes because she does not view it that way. For the second time in a few paragraphs the element of context comes up.

“Where will her Mother sleep when she comes to visit?” this is one of Veronica’s first thoughts as Matrons “live” in dorms with the pupils and do not have the privacy privilege that her current occupation at Turi affords her. She rejects the offer.

She is not the only stubborn one in this; Mr. Parker believing (and telling her as much) that her limited capacity for foresight at this age does not allow her to contemplate beyond  a certain point “forces” her to sign a contract and become the matron of Junior Boys (Junior Boys has been home to many respected men in society today who have gone on to make their mark years after passing through the caring arms of Veronica).

Veronica is passionate about the boy child, she has raised many; unfortunately she and her dearly departed husband did not have any children of their own so her children so to speak have been the pupils she has cared for at Turi. Some of the boys she has seen through home-sickness, fights, bed-wetting and other struggles of growing up have gone on to have their own little boys who have passed through her hands as well. Essentially, she is the grand matron (read mother) at the Prep School. Today, she is the head of the Matrons and a motherly figure to not just the pupils but the adults as well.

“Every morning before I leave the house I ask God to go before me!” says Veronica who has since gone on to have her very own private space (a house she built) just outside the school compound. She credits the stubborn headmaster for her long successful career and God for all the blessings it has bestowed upon her.

Years later her “sons” who live all over the world don’t just remember her but check on her personally. When news of an alleged Covid outbreak at the school broke, she received calls from concerned former residents of Junior Boys who wanted to know if she was fine.  Experiences like these are the reasons why in the evenings as she walks back home, she can’t help but be grateful for the days she had no space of her own; the days when she would sleep with the door (and one eye) open so that she wouldn’t miss anything during the night.

We together recall Joshua an Old Turian who left the school in 2019. After sitting his last A-Level exam and before saying good bye to Turi for good, he had to make a very important stop; Junior boys. He came to say goodbye to Ms. Veronica who thirteen years before this day took him in; at five years old, a far cry from the confident young man he had grown to be. The tears shed on that day by these two (and those who witnessed it) cannot be explained adequately in writing but are telling of the impact Veronica has had on not just the pupils at Turi but the institution as whole!

The role of boarding schools is often downplayed, perhaps even undermined in a society where it is the norm rather than the exception to meet someone who attended one. The minute the state-recognized parent/ guardian drops off their child and waves goodbye, someone steps in to play that role for the 12 weeks of that term. This means that beyond making sure they attend class, take on a sport and do their homework (prep) in the evening the child has people ensuring their growth and wellbeing. There are days they will need reassurance, guidance, discipline and even cuddles.

Unlike at home where the responsibility lies on one or two individuals, there’s a whole clan of people to give a telling off, wipe runny noses, cheer on through a struggle and all the responsibilities of raising little boys…and girls! House parents, class teachers, tutors; this lot do not go to sleep before they have and after they do, the Matrons take over and some nights barely get any sleep for one reason or another.

We all know the popular saying “It takes a village” but at Turi we know it also takes a Veronica! More than 40 years later, hindsight and the wisdom that comes with age allows her to see that the role she has played (and rather diligently might we add) was not forced but rather was a God-ordained appointment.

With retirement looming, she continues to take on her duties with the diligence and heart still often seen giving her now arthritis-laden knees to the children to lean on as they speak of their day’s troubles and triumphs.

In the corporate world it is said that no one is indispensable but in the Turi family we have found this not to be entirely true.

Veronica, we speak for the little boys at Turi and the big boys all over the world when we say Thank you Mama! Please join us in celebrating this mother figure and true servant of God!

Behind the 90 – Meet Mwangi

It’s 7:35 am and Mwangi is on his second pair of trousers. Trousers for many fundis (tailors) are a headache but to him it’s one of the easier garments to stitch; easier than a dress, he says. He trained as a Menswear tailor after all!

John Mwangi has been a tailor for 35 years; a decision he made when his father could not afford his A levels school fees. He, like many Kenyans, had his career path determined by a mix of circumstances and the immediate need for an income. Born in 1969, Mwangi is a long-time resident of Turi whose family moved here in 1973.

If it were up to him, teenage John would much rather have been conducting mass at 7:35 am on this particular morning like 12 of his classmates at St Joseph’s Seminary Molo who went on to be Priests. When it was clear his circumstances did not align with his dreams, he quickly signed up for a tailoring course and soon became his trainer’s right-hand man.

Like any entrepreneur, Mwangi did his calculations and decided that his share of the cake was disproportionate to his input and shortly after he set up shop in Turi.

(This is the point at which we feel the need to clarify that while many people out there think Turi is simply the name of our school, it is actually the name of the area in which the school is situated- a Ward to be exact. )

Almost a decade later Mwangi was contracted to assist the Turi (This time referring to St Andrew’s School, Turi) Tailor with piece work. He played a supporting role, often coming to collect what needed to be worked on and doing the work from his own premises. Two years later he officially became part of Turi and anyone who knows, recognizes the importance of Mwangi at the school.

From table linen, masks, curtains, labeling the pupils’ clothing, staff uniforms, furniture covers, bean bags, curtains and occasionally outfits for individuals within the community; the name is Mwangi. Most recently and as it happens occasionally he was given an assignment whose turnaround time was very short- to stitch the “90” banner for our birthday celebrations. He admits, this was not an ordinary request and it did challenge him quite a bit but as always he delivered!

Mwangi is an important part of St Andrew’s, often working behind the scenes like many others to make sure that the school we see looks and feels good.

Today we celebrate you John Mwangi, man behind the 90 and many others that add to the beauty and function of our school.

Living and Working in Rural Kenya

Words by: Sally Andwati – Mum of two, Senior School Teacher and Careers Advisor

I had always been a ‘city girl’. Born, raised and educated in Kenya’s capital city, I feel that can expertly use the phrase ’fast and furious’ to describe  Nairobi’s expeditious life style.  As much as I loved and enjoyed living and working in our great city, I soon began to feel a need for a change. It did not take me long before I had narrowed down to one school. After only one visit to Turi, I was completely sold.

Nestled in the hills of the Molo, Rift Valley region, I found a gem. St Andrew’s School appealed to me in many ways: I was taken by the beautiful environment, the fresh air and the lovely people. I met students that were so well grounded in their values and Christian ethos; I knew that this was where I wanted to continue my teaching career. Because our small classes are made up of students from different background, teaching is much more enjoyable when students share their experiences.

I have never enjoyed teaching English Literature lessons more. The staff was welcoming and very accommodating. As a mother, the School offers my boys a safe haven where, not only are they nurtured in their educational needs, but also in their social lives. Where else would my four year old find open, lush green grounds to run freely? My fifteen year old swims, cycles and enjoys playing rugby. Turi has offered him a place to simply be.

I cannot describe the peace of mind that I have knowing that my children are safe and happy while I am at work. I am only five minutes away from home.  Nairobi cannot compare. As a Christian, I value the fact that Turi has its core founded in serving others and loving God. My sons are constantly exposed to these ideals, and yet they are still allowed to grow as individuals. Since coming to Turi eight years ago, I have grown tremendously both in my profession and as a person.

Returning to Turi

Words by: Georgia Long – A former Turi student, working as a Gap student at Prep School

My Parents worked at Turi from 2005 to 2012, so I attended the Prep School and Senior School. I loved my time here and especially enjoyed the sport. Growing up at Turi was ideal for me because of the immense freedom. The Turi grounds have so much space to run around in, get muddy, climb trees and make dens in the forest. My siblings and I loved going on walks in the forest trying to search for the Colobus monkeys and going for bike rides around the site. I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable childhood.

I went off to the UK for my sixth form to a school called Ardingly College and decided that I wanted to come back for my gap year which was what I did. I have loved being on the teaching side of the school and working with the sports teams.

The best part of being a gap student is you get to go on all the school trips! After my year at Turi I will head back to the UK to study Physiotherapy at Keele University, which I am very much looking forward to

Coming to Kenya

Esther Youlten – Mum of three and teacher at Senior School tells us about leaving the UK and settling in Kenya.

Arriving at Turi is something we will never forget. After the family goodbyes at Heathrow and the long-haul flight overnight with three young (and very excited) kids, followed by a lengthy bus ride with a gaggle of newly arrived teachers up into the highlands past zebras grazing on the side of the road and colourful villages, we finally stepped off the coach onto the lush, green school lawn and were surrounded by kind people offering us fruit juice.

It was a lovely welcome and the first week was a whirl of settling in, meeting new people, discovering Nakuru and preparing for the start of term. We had expected to feel some culture shock but five months in and we are still waiting for that – you can drink the water from the taps, buy Marmite at Nakumatt, there are no giant spiders or snakes (that we’ve seen!), punctuality is, if anything, more of a priority here than we have been used to in the UK and the weather ranges from the wettest that Lancashire could offer to the sunniest you could find in Cornwall.

Our day to day life is full of variety. Our children go to the Prep School and Nursery (called Turitots) for different amounts of the day. We run one of the two boys’ boarding houses at the Senior School and teach the rest of the time. We have found the pupils at the Senior School to be fun, hard working (on the whole!) and very caring towards each other. Similarly, the staff community is full of warmth and we are enjoying getting to know a wide range of people from all over the world.

The centrality of the Christian faith to what goes on here is a real strength and there are many ways to get involved if that is something that is important to you, from outdoor chapel services to prayer groups, Bible studies and Alpha courses.

Everyone has their story of how they found themselves at Turi, and many of them are extraordinary. For us it has been about the opportunity to pull together so many things that we love – experiencing life in Africa, working with people who are passionate about what they do, being part of a growing Christian community and being able to give our children experiences that we could not have imagined possible.

Keeping up with the Joneses

We typically don’t think about the life of Mr or Mrs so-and-so outside the four walls of the classroom and our view of our teachers past and present can be quite one dimensional.

Unless there’s a personal connection outside of school, most people never get to know their teachers for their family life, talents, hobbies, social life, interests etc. We don’t know if they prefer to watch Maria the popular Kenyan soap or socialize with friends after long day of pushing, prodding, scolding, encouraging, cheering and sometimes even playing with an oblivious group of students.

This year’s total interruption of school and learning worldwide has brought to the forefront the challenges educators face on a personal, social, financial and institutional level. It may seem that the very people to whom we entrust the future of our children (and the earth) are somewhat neglected and their contribution is underrated by society.

Turi being home and work for most means that a lot of interesting things happen on-campus both in the classrooms and in the homes of the dedicated men and women that are shaping the hearts, minds, bodies and souls of our pupils.

How much do we know about teachers- as individuals with unique strengths and challenges? Do we know if they sing in the church choir, how many children do they have, do they spend their weekends farming or selling wares in the local market? Perhaps we don’t need to know too much, boundaries do exist but it would be nice to see them relax, have fun and create more than just lesson plans- at least for our very own at Turi.

This past week (half term break) the Joneses had lots of family fun ziplining, rock climbing and white water rafting at the Savage Wilderness campsite; putting their stamp of approval on the annual year 8 trip.