ACK Thika Memorial Church School On A Very Dangerous Path

PHOTO CAPTION: Bishop Julius Wanyoike, Diocese of Thika

The ACK Diocese of Thika and its crown jewel, the ACK Thika Memorial Church School (TMCS) are both at a crossroads today, facing what could be an existential crisis, almost a similar one that threatened and eventually tore apart the school 35 years ago circa 1987.

The problem then, as now, is the implacability of the school administration on critical issues coupled with a hard-headed Board of Management.

The attitude adopted by both the school administration and the BOM is that the parents should bring their children to the school, pay the progressively exorbitant fees without question, then these same parents should sit in a corner and shut up, and silently watch the God-ordained magic happen.

It reminds us of the words of Hon. Kiraitu Murungi in 2003, when he was a Minister in the new NARC regime.

At the time, after dethroning the KANU during the 2002 General elections, adrenaline levels were high all around, and Kiraitu, during one of those adrenalin-fuelled outbursts, asked former President Moi to go home to “shags” and tend to his goats, and watch the magic of how a Government is run.

Murungi would later be physically chased out of his office by women leaders after his infamous “only too willing” rape remarks, and was also recorded by anti-corruption czar John Githongo asking for some people who had been involved in corruption cases to be let off the hook.

But we digress.

The parents of the ACK Thika Memorial Church School are restless, and the pressure is building slowly among them.

A release valve for such pressure, which would help to regulate such pressure by diffusing such tense situations, and which in many cases takes the form of the Parents–Teachers Association (PTA) was killed a long time ago, apparently because the school administration felt it could not take constructive criticism.

Parents are therefore only summoned on closing and prayer days for a termly rendition of the greatness of the school, its administration, the BOM and the Diocese of Thika.

The ACK Diocese of Thika has a storied past and its leadership has had mixed outcomes both in its past and present.

It is led by Bishop Julius Wanyoike, formerly Provost of the All Saint’s Cathedral, who has been its leader for a few years following the retirement of its inaugural leader, Bishop Emeritus Gideon Githiga.

Immediately upon taking over, Bishop Wanyoike rationalized the majority of the leadership positions in the Diocese, moving clergy around and retiring deadwood, until he found the correct mix of youthful idealism and useful experience to handle his own dispensation as a Bishop.

His own brother, Ven. Joseph Wanyoike, who had been Provost at ACK St. Andrews Cathedral, was moved to the Ruiru Archdeaconry.

This was a clever move that curtailed wagging tongues and insinuations of nepotism.

Ven. Joseph was made provost long before Bishop Wanyoike showed any interest in the ACK Diocese of Thika.

Why then did Bishop Wanyoike limit his changes only to clergy?

Why, for instance, didn’t he reshuffle the heads of institutions at the schools owned by the Diocese, in a move that would have injected fresh blood and ideas into these institutions?

Whilst Bishop Wanyoike may have selected his allies to the BOMs of the Diocesan schools, the school heads remained intact.

Remember, it is the overstay of individuals at such leadership positions as Principal and Deputy Principal that stagnate the schools or breeds the level of familiarity and contempt vis-à-vis parents, and that usually spins out of control at the most inopportune time.

ACK Thika Memorial Church School is run by Mr. Maina Gichuki as Principal and Mr. Wang’ombe as his Deputy in the Primary school section.

Mr. Gichuki, previously at Bishop Mahia-ini School in Makuyu is a modest man who has much to be modest about, while Mr. Wang’ombe acts as his enforcer, and who lacks diplomacy and culture.

In a fight against parents, these two gentlemen are very useful to the BOM.

But why the bloody hell would the BOM want to antagonize the parents of a school, with whom they have co-existed peacefully for years?

Why, in the constitutional dispensation that we live in, where courts regularly throw out laws and regulations that were created without public participation, would a school that is owned by the Anglican Church of Kenya be so allergic to engagement with its primary stakeholders; the parents?

Thika Memorial Church was built in the 1940s, and the land and building was funded by the Harries family.

Inside the church, its pews are adorned with memorials of white people.

To be sure, the church was an exclusively white domain.

With independence and Americanization in the 1960s and 1970s, the new African elite started to slowly be incorporated into the church.

It is the reason that the Church is still today viewed as snobbish and stand-offish.

In 1974, the first school was built out of prefabs and timber, for the children of these African elites.

It started with the equivalent of baby class in that year.

These kids would comprise the class 1 intake of 1977 that would then proceed to sit for the one and only CPE exam in 1983 that was conducted by the school.

You see, President Moi had changed the education system from the level-headed 7-6-3 to the infamous 8-4-4 system.

This meant that the class 6s of 1983 proceeded to class 7 (1984) and sat for KCPE as the first Std 8s in 1985.

There was no Form 1 intake in 1985 anywhere in the country.

In 1986, a Mr. Wilson Huruko Njau was transferred to Thika Memorial Church School and in 1987, he became Headteacher.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man…

He led the school during the most tumultuous time in its history, through a crisis of his own creation and cheered on by a BOM that in retrospect claps itself on the back but was misguided and wrong.

The next few years were a dark period for the school, whose student population had grown organically over a decade and whose performance was the best in both Thika Municipality and Kiambu District in general.

With this success, the BOM which comprised members of the Church council, and fueled by the voices in their own heads, decided to sideline the parents in decision-making.

Soon, the School and its BOM were involved in a war on two fronts.

A war with the parents on the one hand and a fight with the Diocese of Mt. Kenya Central (the then mother Diocese for the school) because the church council wanted to be independent of the Diocese.

There was more money to be made as an independent institution by the individuals involved, than when controlled by the Diocese of Mt. Kenya Central, which had its own hungry people.

It was this protracted fight between the Church council and the Diocese of Mt. Kenya Central that would ultimately lead to the split and creation of the Diocese of Thika. Bravo!

However, at the school, the intentional exclusion of parents from the decision-making process, the arrogance of Mr. Huruko Njau and his BOM, the arbitrary increments of fees without a commensurate quality in the lives of teachers and pupils, would lead to the eventual “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold” moment.

The Parents of TMCS saw for the first time how the Christian church could be changed from doing the noble work of preaching the great commission of Christ into being the hatchet men for the devil.

The Parents of the time were decisive and not to be taken lightly.

In a year, they had constructed a brand-new school at Del Monte junction and named it Moi Primary School.

PHOTO CAPTION: Moi Primary School Thika

Built in less than 12 months, 50% of all pupils moved to Moi Primary for the school year 1988, in all classes from nursery to class 8.

Only the diehard members of the Anglican Communion would remain in Thika Memorial Church School.

Apparently, the current Principal of TMCS, Mr. Gichuki, is a throwback to the old Diocese of Mt. Kenya Central and its own crown jewel school, the Bishop Mahia-ini Primary School in Makuyu.

He brings to this school (TMCS) the air of infallibility that only God can lay claim to, frequently disregards the parents and their opinions and panders to the whims of the BOM.

It is an arrogance that comes from the fleeting success gained in the construction of a new school (Main Primary Section), a new ECDE and currently the construction of the Junior Primary section plus a swimming pool.

PHOTO CAPTION: TMCS main school building

What is the use of all these edifices if ALL those who were involved in building them are not speaking with one voice?

Remember, all this has been accomplished purely off of the school fees paid by the parents and the main shareholder of the school, the ACK Diocese of Thika, has never had to conduct a fundraiser or fund the construction from its own reserves.

PHOTO CAPTION: The Ultra-modern ECDE wing

In fact, TMCS is the biggest contributor to the Diocesan quota paid to the Diocese of Thika, and the church is therefore happy to ignore the economic plight of parents as it enjoys the fruits.

Do members of the school and the church live in a parallel economic universe from the parents and their children in TMCS? Why then, the callous increment of fees which has begun and continued exponentially since schools re-opened in October 2020, after the initial covid-19 lockdowns?

How come the remuneration of the teachers is so low to the point that these teachers to whom we entrust our children cannot afford to bring their own kids to TMCS, but are expected to sing praises of its wondrous glory?

These same teachers are also friends of the parents and we hear horror stories of their dire financial situations, despite the population growth of the students.

Now that parents have helped the Church to expand the physical infrastructure of the school and it is now an eye-catcher for parents who had not seen it as such previously, is our Lord Bishop Julius Wanyoike now telling us to literally ‘go to hell’ because we have served our purpose?

He has happily built an entire dairy system at his Mabanda home to supply milk exclusively and at premium prices to the schools in the Diocesan system and he has also built himself a palatial abode in Maki.

Why would he care?

Maybe Mr. Wilson Huruko Njau is busy whispering to him, “hold steady Bishop” we can outlast and outmanoeuvre these parents”

PHOTO CAPTION: [3rd from Left] Mr. Wilson Huruko Njau with Bishop [centre].
Bishop Julius Wanyoike, within two years of ascending to the head of the Diocese of Thika, attempted a run at the position of Archbishop of the ACK, which he ultimately lost to the current Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit.

How can he aspire to a position that requires National engagement, yet he is currently unable to moderate discussions with the parents of his own schools in the ACK Diocese of Thika?

Mr. Gichuki and Mr. Wang’ombe, please stop playing around with people’s children, lest they find it more convenient to engage you both in the streets.

Article 2: We will break down the fees and compare to other schools within the Diocese, to see if this lunacy is justified.

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