How a former trial court for the Kapenguria Six became school for the high and mighty in independent Kenya - Chewoyet High school
Written by Leonard Wamalwa
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After serving as an Agricultural college and an exclusive court that tried the celebrated Kapenguria Six freedom fighters of this country, Chewoyet High school in West Pokot County later became a learning institution that produced people who served in high profile portfolios in independent Kenya.
The block that was the colonial court and school and below the Principal Chewoyet High school in West Pokot County Simon Kodomuk besides the placard of the Kapenguria six. [Photos/ Leonard Wamalwa]
It was first an Agriculture center partnering with National Agriculture Research Station in Kitale before the colonialists converted it into a court that was used to try the six freedom fighters led by the country’s founding president the Late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
Others who were always brought from their Kapenguria cells alongside Mzee Kenyatta to be tried at the court and taken back to the cells included, Bildad Kaggia, Kungu Karumba, Fred Kubai, Paul Masaku Ngei, and Ramogi Acheng Oneko.
At the school the name of the court and other metallic plates describing the people who were tried there is still clear on the walls of the building that now acts as a staff room, various classrooms and other administrative blocks.
On the wall the name Jomo Kenyatta Court is still very clear under which there are two metallic plates written in English and Swahili and I quote; In this room on 8th April 1953 Mzee Jomo Kenyatta First President of the republic and five others were convicted after a stage managed trial by the colonial government for leading a persistent fight for Kenya’s independence.
Incidentally Kenya has had the number six making history in pre-independent and independent Kenya where Kenyans witnessed six countrymen detained and tried in Kapenguria for championing for the country’s independence and six others being tried at the International Criminal Court –ICC at The Hague in the Netherlands for being related to the post-election violence that rocked the country after the 2007 general elections.
A metallic plate on the wall of the former court that is now occupied by some classrooms and the school staff room.
Initially when the school was initiated over fifty years ago it had four classes with students moving from one side of the block in Form 1 and finishing at the other end in Form 4.
According to the current Principal Simon Kodomuk, the school started with a population of 160 students from different parts of the country had each class strictly having 40 students from form 1 to form 4.
Pioneered by among others the late Vice President Michael Wamalwa Kijana and former Chief of General Staff Daudi Tonje, the students were selected from many parts of Rift Valley province by the then colonial administrators and had all selected students converge at Kitale Post Office to be picked by a lorry to be taken to school in 1958.
Chewoyet and Kapsabet were the only government secondary schools in the entire North Rift region by then hence one was to be selected in either of the two.
Among the prominent school Alumni was the late Vice President Michael Wamalwa Kijana who to date remains the highest achiever in all graduates from the school and his young brother who is also the current Saboti Member of Parliament among others.
While in the school, the late Wamalwa had sterling performances throughout his four year period at the school as an ordinary level student.
Wamalwa who was a school captain currently know as school head boy performed excellently in academics setting a record that is yet to be broken by any other student.
The school principal revealed that the late VP who at that time had been allocated a house to live in as a captain scored grade 1 equivalent to straight As in the current educational system in all the six subjects he sat for in his O-level examinations in 1961.
Although at the time of the interview the principal could not access the records to ascertain the specific subjects that he sat for.
Before becoming school captain Wamalwa was sleeping in Kenya dormitory one of the only two dormitories in the school at that time which the principal noted that all along the years has produced the best students as compared to other hostels to date.
The former school captain’s self contained house is now occupied by one of the senior teachers in the school in an era where many teachers and civil servants in many institutions are faced with dire shortage of houses as compare to the colonial era where a school could afford to have a big house for a head student.
Among other old students of Chewoyet High school that is deep in the rural area of West Pokot county include; Abraham Kamakil and Edward Lopokoit the former commissioners of prisons, General Daudi Tonje, Hon Wilson Litole the current Sigor MP, Hon Eugene Wamalwa of Saboti who has announced his intention to vie for the presidency of this country, Bishop Stephen Kewasis and former Nairobi Mayor John Gakuo.
Others include doctors, professors, Engineers, architects and ambassadors including Professor Atinga of Nairobi Hospital, Charles Chetotum the deputy secretary in TSC, former PC the late Ishmail Chelang,a among others to mention but a few.
Currently the school stands on a 400-acre piece of land with a population of 997 students with four streams per class and among the recently appointed national schools.
However despite the historic record of hosting diverse activities in the pre and post-independence times, the school seems to have received not much recognition from the governments that be.
The Kenya dormitory in which the late VP michael kijana Wamalwa used to sleep before he became a school captain.
The outlook clearly indicates how it is has a face that does not carry any historic nature that can only be noted by a curious journalist or people with specific interests. Not even the residents are aware that their coveted school was used as the trial court in which the country’s freedom fighters were tried before independence.
Much focus has been given to the cells in which the six were remanded during their detention in Kapenguria town but nothing has been done so far to have their trial court be protected and go to the history books and make it one of the tourist attractions in the country.
As the government unveils the new program to recognize its national heroes there should also be similar efforts to recognize and protect some of the historic sites through which the same heroes might have had experiences or went through in one way or another.
Even though principal Kodomuk revealed that the school’s alumni are planning to come together and have modalities to assist the school in diverse aspects, there should be similar deliberate efforts by the government to have the school be recognized nationally as a host of such history.
The newly created counties should also be in the forefront to identify sites of that nature as they prepare to embark on the county governance that may be in one way or another sources of income or revenue generation as tourist sites if well maintained and publicized strategically.