After struggling to find a good private secondary school for his son, Dr John Mutunga resolved to start a boysâ€™ secondary school. He says most private investors are operating girlsâ€™ schools, ignoring the needs of boys.
After consulting his wife, who is also an educationist, Dr Mutunga, the chief executive of the Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (KENFAP) and a lecturer at Kenyatta University, says:
â€œWe decided to start a boysâ€™ school. We felt that boys had been left out in terms of private schools, perhaps due to the perception that they are rowdy or unruly and difficult to manage,â€ he told Money. With proper nurturing and guidance, Dr Mutunga believes that boys can be well behaved.
A friend who owns the school where the lecturerâ€™s son was admitted told him that he required at least five acres of land. Dr Mutunga already had three acres in Muguga in the outskirts of Nairobi.
Some of his friends in the US offered to partner with him in the venture. As a part of the deal, they were to purchase two acres of land each, bringing the total acreage to seven.
He identified more land which they were to purchase jointly for the school, but the deal failed as his partners abandoned the idea after seven months. But Dr Mutunga went ahead and bought two more acres.
He approached Barclays Bank of Kenya (BBK) for a home improvement loan of Sh14 million, half of which he pumped into the school project. Valuers estimated that it would cost about Sh30 million to build the school.
He later used Sh30 million borrowed from National Bank of Kenya (NBK) to help repay the BBK loan. He then asked NBK to top up with Sh10 million to complete construction, which was done in August 2010 and cost about Sh80 million.
Dr Mutungaâ€™s idea is todayâ€™s Skyline High School Muguga, which sits on 13 acres of land. The initial structures were six classrooms, a library, a computer lab, a laboratory, an administrative block, a dining hall, and dormitories.
â€œMy son was so impressed by the school that he said he would transfer there if it had Form Three. We started interviews for all classes in December 2010,â€ he says, adding that a few of his friends brought their children to the school as his son joined Form Three last year.
â€œWe had all the teachers we wanted by January 2011. At the end of first term, we had 32 students,â€ he says. Four of the students were in Form One, six in Form Two, and a similar number in Form Three, while Form Four had 16. By the end of 2011, his school had 54 students, 16 of whom sat for their Form Four examinations.
The school performed well in the national examination, scoring an average of 10.1875 points â€” an average of a B+ (plus). Out of the 16 candidates, one had a straight â€˜Aâ€™, four an â€˜A- (minus)â€™, eight â€˜B+ (plus)â€™, while the remaining three scored â€˜Bâ€™ plain. Dr Mutunga says all the students have been admitted to public universities.
Touch of philanthropy
He notes that he has combined business acumen with a touch of philanthropy, and is now is looking for bright but needy students, especially in the informal settlements of Nairobi, to offer partial or full scholarships to study at his school.
At the end of this year, the school had 74 students, 22 of whom sat for their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education. The school, with a capacity of 350 students, has 12 teachers whom Dr Mutunga says are keen on personalised attention to students.
Sky line High School also runs a dairy unit, which helps to cut some of the expenses.
The ultimate goal is to have Skyline University, he says. And already he has begun acquiring 10 acres of land. He intends to identify 40 more acres in Thika for the proposed institution of higher learning.