Arya Primary School (Arya Kanya Pathshala)
Arya Samaj Nairobi, which was founded in 1903, ignored orthodox opposition to Girl child education and soon established its first ‘Arya Kanya Pathshala’ –girls school in 1910 due to the inspiration of Pandit Purnanand. This was also the first known Indian school in Kenya when the colonial government had developed a policy of segregation on racial lines for almost all aspects of life including education. This school was housed at the residence of Shri Mathura Dass, in which Pandit Mathura Prasad conducted teaching. There were only 8-10 students in this school. A room was taken in the building of Sri Wazir Chand, for some time, but later on the teaching was carried on in the Arya Samaj Bhavan, Queenswayadjacent to the Barclays Bank due to shortage of accommodation in the building of Shri Wazir Chand.
Shri Mathura Dass paid the salary of the teachers from his own pocket during that period. To run this, what might be called ‘Mathura Dass Arya Girls’ School’, a sub–committee was appointed, which consisted of Arya Samajists, like Shri Mathura Dass, Shri Wazir, Shri Bihari Lal (Chairman) and two others Shri DuliChand and Shri Magan Lal. This committee framed rules for this school. The expenses of this school were then paid from the Pathshala Fund of Arya Samaj Nairobi. Religious education received due attention and Havan was also performed in this school twice a week.
Financial constraints led to occasional closure during its initial years. It was again started in the house of Shri Mathura Dass in 1917 under the charge of Smt Vidyavati Khanna. As the number of students increased, another wing had to be started at the house of Mr. Badri Nath Arya where his son, Mr. Uttam Chand undertook the task of teaching. Both the branches were combined in 1918 and the amalgated school was accommodated in the gallery of Arya Samaj Building (Queensway). Previous rules were also amended and new courses of teaching were introduced on the pattern of Arya Kanya Mahavidyalaya Jullundar, Punjab (India), in which religious education was made compulsory. It is worth mentioning here that the medium of teaching was kept Hindi, which was new for this country; but it depicted the love of Arya Samaj for Hindi. Reorganization of the sub committee was done, in which three others; besides for from Arya Samaj, were members, making its strength to seven. This committee was a sort of “Education–Board” on the modern pattern of education of Arya Samaj.
Education continued to be imparted free till 1920. Mr. Uttam Chanda’s contribution to strengthen the school by his free selfless services is quite great. Shri Devi Dass Puri became the first manager of this school in 1920. The hard work put in by Shri Puri for this school is unforgettable. Thereafter, Shri B.R. Sharma and Shri Babu Ram Bhalla took the responsibility of the managership of this school one after each other. Government grant-in-aid was also provided to this school in 1918.
In 1921 colonial Government allotted a piece of land, on temporary lease, for a school near Arya Samaj Bhavan (at present ‘Vedic House’), where Barclays Bank stands today. In 1922 Shri Nanji Bhai Kalidas Mehta, a renowned philanthropist who later became greatly instrumental in promoting Arya Samaj activities, laid the foundation stone of the school. By the grace of God the building construction was also completed in the same year. Shri Rura Ramji, Shri Kalidas ji Patel and Shri Kundan Lalji Aggarwal were the members of the construction committee and played a vital role in this achievement.
The government of Kenya took over the land as lease period was over in 1936 and allotted the same to Barclays Bank. Arya Samaj acquired 1 ½ acre of land at Fort Hall Road (Murang’a Road), Taita lane. Shri Nanji Kalidas Mehta Donated Shs. 17,000 and Aryan members raised it up to Shs. 47,000 in donations. A single–storeyd building was completed on this plot of land and Arya Kanya Pathshala moved here. There was the financial crisis due to inflation but Shri Badri Nath ji, Shri Daulat Ram Sharma and shri Devi Dass Puri worked hard to meet this challenge and completed the work. Mr. E.G. Morris the Director of Education inaugurated Arya Kanya Pathshala Bhavan on 1st December 1936.
The three-storey, new magnificent building of Arya Kanya Pathshala was constructed in 1949 (V.S. 2006), which cost approximately half a million shillings. Going by the architecture and history of Nairobi in 1949, this building must have found a special place in the hearts of the Indians. Seth Shri Nanji Bhai Kalidas Mehta laid the foundation stone. Many family members of Arya Samaj worked hard for this foundation laying. Mr. Adarsh Varma remembers “I consider myself fortunate that I got the opportunity of serving Arya Samaj when I helped in digging the foundation and removing the foundation soil of this three-storey building of the school at Fort Hall Road, Ngara when its construction had just begun”. Shri Amritsariyamal Marwaha ji, Shri Ramrakha ji, Shri Lahori Ram ji, Shri Gurdas Ram Bhandari ji, Shri Achhra Das ji, and Shri Ram Das Pathak travelled relentlessly throughout the country to collect funds for school building under construction. Many arya Samaj members lent money without any interest for this noble work. In course of time the money was repaid to them. Shri C.H. Thornley, Deputy. Chief Secretary of Kenya, performed the inauguration ceremony on 17th December, 1949.
Senior Cambridge classes were also started in 1948 in the Pathshala hence the name ‘Arya Kanya Mahavidyalaya’ is written on the wall. This way the primary and senior schools were located here under one head. Approximately 1,400/ girls were being educated. It was the biggest Girls’ educational Institution in East Africa at that time. Pathshala was conducting curricular activities like –literary, cultural and religious. ‘’Aryabala’ Patrika was also published during those days. Competitions like ‘Satyarth Prakash’ and ‘Sandhya’ were held to enable the girls of Arya Samaj to develop their talent and knowledge.
On 1st January 1954 Arya Kanya Pathshala was renamed as “Arya Girls Senior School”. Inspite of its new name the committee members still used Arya Pathashala in their meeting for many years.
It is heartening to note that some members of Arya community gave their services to this institution. Some of the teachers who gave their services as teachers for a considerable length of time are Smt. Savitri Devi Ghai (from 1942-1975) Smt. Adarsh Vinayak, Smt. Sheela Gupta, Miss Pathak, Mr. Patel, Smt. Sudershana Pal and others. Smt. Kusum Duggal served as the head of the school from 1971 to 1988 and during her tenure Arya Primary School once achieved the 1st place in KCPE results among all the schools of Nairobi. In other fields also the school did well.
Following the enactment of the Kenya Education Act in 1968 the Kenyan Government agreed to assist all the community schools by providing teachers but the management remained in the hands of Arya Samaj. The Teachers Service Commission made the appointment of the Headmaster and the teachers. Thus the school became an assisted school but was managed by the Arya Samaj Education Board until the declaration of free Primary Education on 9th January 2003 when the Government took over the Management of the school. The school has around 600 pupils and more than twenty members of staff. Government of NARC exempted primary students from paying fees and then backtracked on this by asking the parents to contribute hence not achieving its goal of free education. Arya Samaj is taking all legal action to take back the management of school and have it returned to its rightful owner –Arya Samaj.