SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY HON. MWAI KIBAKI, CGH., M.P., PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA ON THE OCCASION OF THE 44TH FOUNDERS' DAY OF STAREHE BOYS' CENTRE AND SCHOOL, ON 26TH JULY 2003, NAIROBI

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to be present at this occasion, in which we mark the 44th Founders' Day of Starehe Boys' Centre and School. This is an important occasion, as it provides an opportunity, to review the path we have travelled for the last 44 years. It also provides a good opportunity to reflect on the way forward.

For those who are old boys of Starehe, this is an opportunity, not only to refresh your memories, but also to re-dedicate your support for an institution from which you benefited, so that others may benefit as well. For the patrons and sponsors of Starehe, it is an opportunity to take pride in your achievements, and to brace for the challenges ahead.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
From the very humble beginning of 17 destitute boys, sheltering in the famous two tin huts, Starehe is, today, an institution of international repute. I note, from the Director's report, that since the opening day, 44 years ago, over 11,000 boys have entered Starehe. Over three quarters of these boys had been orphaned, abandoned or, otherwise, deprived of care and schooling.

Starehe has provided a safe and stable home, as well as free education. I also note that, a majority of these boys are now prominent Kenyans, serving the country in private and public sectors. Some do, even, sit on my Cabinet.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In all likelihood, the orphaned and abandoned boys would not have had a chance in life, without education and care. For this reason, it is fitting to acknowledge and, sincerely, commend Dr. Griffin, Mr. Joseph Gikubu and the late Geoffrey Geturo, for having started this Centre.

Theirs was a noble initiative, which has transformed the lives of many boys and contributed significantly, in the development of manpower in the country. I take this opportunity to, also, thank all the sponsors of Starehe. Without your generous contributions, Starehe would not be what it is today.

I cannot forget to thank all the teachers and other staff, who have served Starehe all these years. Their dedication has been instrumental, in shaping Starehe, into one of the best performing schools in the country. For me, I am happy to have served Starehe as Patron for many years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In my visits to Starehe over the years, I have been impressed by the excellent performance of the school, and its philosophy of giving maximum trust and responsibility to the boys themselves. This is education in its best and widest sense. The routine day-to-day organization, and discipline of the School is done by the boys themselves.

I am glad to hear that many head teachers take advantage of this, and visit Starehe for seminars. We must encourage and invest in more role model schools, like Starehe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is through education that individuals are equipped with the skills, necessary for economic development. It is clear, therefore, that a nation that does not develop the skills of its people cannot develop. It is for this reason, that my Government has placed education among its top priorities. So far, we have delivered on our pledge of free primary education. The implementation of this policy has seen the enrolment of an additional 1.7 million children. Without this policy, these children would not have had a chance in life.

The Government is committed to the goal of universal free primary education. In this spirit of commitment to education, the Government will partner with, and support, other institutions offering education. My Government, through the Ministry of Education, will continue to help Starehe, mainly, by supplying the majority of teachers.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The cost of providing food, clothing, bedding, medical care and textbooks to more than 750 orphaned or otherwise helpless boys in Starehe, will continue to be raised through charity. In the past, this has been successful, mainly, due to the skills of Dr. Griffin, in persuading people to become sponsors of individual boys.

With the prospect of the retirement of Dr. Griffin, there is an urgent need to find a new way of keeping the Centre's places free, to the needy and helpless boys of the future. I am glad to note that the Centre has taken note of this need, and is introducing the method of endowment to raise funds. By this method, funds donated will be invested, and only accrued interest, will be used.

The sum needed to endow one such a place is Kshs. 550,000. It is hard to think of a better investment in Kenya's future than this one. It will ensure proper care, and a fine education to an endless succession of disadvantaged boys. I take this opportunity to appeal to individuals, as well as corporate firms, to donate generously towards this end. I would also like to challenge other schools in the country, to start endowment funds, supported by old pupils to help needy students.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Looking further into the future, I feel that the time has come for the Centre to extend its vision and mission, yet further.

Without Starehe, in any way, diminishing its present role of rescuing and bringing up needy boys, I would wish to see it extend and grow into a vibrant, internationally acknowledged, chartered University. With the strong support of your old and new friends and partners, together with your increasingly supportive Old Boys Association, I believe that you would surely succeed in such an aim.

Equally, I would like to challenge the ladies present here this afternoon. The foundation of a Starehe GIRLS' Centre has been talked about for at least thirty years, without it ever coming into existence. I am told that a new initiative is now at an advanced stage. On the Government side, the Ministry of Education has already pledged Aid in the form of teaching staff, once the project begins.

But other support is needed, ranging from capital sums for building dormitories and classrooms, down to recurrent expenditure by way of sponsorship of individual girls. So, these are the challenges that I see ahead - to extend the Starehe Boys' Centre to greater academic heights and to bring a Starehe Girls' Centre into existence. Both would be of great value to Kenya. I very much hope to hear that donors have come forward to make this possible.

Meanwhile, I once again commend the Starehe Management and all its teaching and non-teaching staff, for their excellent work. I challenge them to strive to attain even greater heights, in the Centre's 45th year. My best wishes are to you, and to all these boys, for it is them we shall look up to, in the efforts of re-building our NEW KENYA.

May God bless you all!