Geoffrey Griffin idea that birthed ‘place of comfort’
1 weeks ago, 18:43
More often than not, we associate Geoffrey Griffin with Starehe Boys Centre and school, and to a lesser degree with the National Youth Service both being institutions which he founded in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Griffin embodied the virtues of discipline, sacrifice and excellence but he was much more than that.
In an article published on November 1,2016, Matthew Hilton argues that Griffin was an institution in himself representing the key issues of decolonisation, development and charity in post-colonial Kenya and Africa at large.
Geoffrey William Griffin was born on June 13, 1933 in Eldoret, the son of an English police officer who had come to serve in Kenya in 1919, and an English mother born in India. He was educated at Kitale Primary School and then proceeded to Prince of Wales School (current Nairobi School) in 1945.
At Prince of Wales, Griffin was a “stinker” (day boy) as his father had by then been transferred to Nairobi in the Railway Police and they lived in Railway quarters at Parklands. His school mates remember him as a good but not brilliant student who was inventive and single-minded of purpose. He was always willing to try out new things but was conscientious about doing it right and in an orderly manner. Towards the end of his school career he became a junior prefect and helped to re-establish the scout movement in the school for which he was honoured. Finding school not as rewarding as he would have wished, he left before completing his sixth year in 1950 to join the civil service at the Survey of Kenya.
When the State of Emergency was declared in October 1952, Griffin had just completed his National Service training with the Kenya Regiment and was serving in the Kenya Police Special Reserve. He was later commissioned into the 3rd Kings African Rifles as second lieutenant but after 14 months he was disillusioned by the brutality of the battle on both sides, increasingly sympathiwing with the justice of the rebels’ cause and did not renew his commission when it expired, going home, a soldier no more.
Early on in the Emergency, Tom Askwith, the colonial government Community Development Officer championed the idea that Mau Mau rebels could be “cured” through a process of re-education and rehabilitation in detention camps before release back into civilian life. Shortly after leaving the army Griffin and his friend Roger Owles took up posts, in 1955, as community development officers in Askwith’s new ministry and were posted to Manyani Detention Camp to identify underage boys who were being held inappropriately with adults and hardened Mau Mau rebels.
Although Griffin was viewed with suspicion by both the Special Branch and inmates, he nevertheless managed to identify over 1,000 children in 1955, of 16 years or less who were transferred to Wamumu Approved School and Youth Camp in Mwea Division where he was able to apply a more liberal form of rehabilitation. Wamumu has been described as “a paradise for young Mau Mau suspects” that stood ...
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