Why schools should preserve their institutional memory

Victor Ocheing’

In actual sense, schools can preserve institutional memory in people, buildings, publications, portraits, plaques, libraries, annual events, recordings, phenomenal lectures, photo galleries, professional documents, inter alia.

Advisedly, when a visionary principal joins a new station, it is important to set the blueprint for the institution. In Best Management Practices, visionary principals supervise formulation and implementation of Strategic Plans. As a scribe who assists schools to write and edit that great text, I am acutely aware that most Strategic Plans span for 5 years. This management document is a memory manual acts as a good guide in governance.

Again, TSC should give principals ample time to settle in stations so that they go through good grafting and proper plugging. Somehow, sufficient stint aid them to bond better with staff and students. When they establish close camaraderie with key stakeholders, this preserves institutional memory.

Then, perhaps, we should press pause button, and also ask ourselves, what made Carrey Francis and Geoffrey Griffins to leave lasting legacies at Alliance High School in Kiambu and Starehe Boys Centre in Nairobi respectively?

Ostensibly, my little research convinces my conscience that the two smart administrators had prime time to run the schools without interference of capricious bosses who sometimes turn and toss principals with comportment of contempt.

Somewhat, when we go that way, our schools miss an aspect of institutional memory called culture and tradition. Yet, great schools anchor on firm foundations of culture and tradition. The textbook definition of culture is the way of life. While tradition encompasses routines, rituals, rites and customs preserved in order to prevent loss of collective principles and practices treasured in a particular community.

Somehow, it is impossible to preserve such marvellous memories in places where there are no careful custodians keen to compile chronicles and keep repositories. This explains why sensible and sensitive citizens value elders in the society. Again, culture and tradition are tenets of history and heritage. Wendel Pierce observed, “The role of culture is that it is the form through which we as a society reflect on who we are, where we have been, and where we hope to be.” No wonder, there is the exigence of making learners treasure history of their schools. Marcus Garvey put it aptly, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture, are like trees without roots.”


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For instance, Kenyatta High School-Mahiga in Nyeri invests heavily on churning out quality school magazines to treasure their past, present and future. Alliance High School in Kiambu documents its alumni in their annual yearbook. Making their past a prologue. When you tip-toe into the principal’s office at Njoro High School in Nakuru, you will ascertain that they are keen to preserve history and heritage of their school by hanging photos of former principals on their hallowed halls.

As a peripatetic public speaker, I have seen the same photos at Asumbi Girls in Homa Bay. In Mudavadi Girls in Vihiga, the principal of the school has a beautiful photo album, which chronicles major events. Ribe High School in Kilifi abuts on Kaya Shrines: Helping students to appreciate cultural diversity, evinced by the Mijikenda Community.

Most schools also hang boards in strategic places: Enshrining names of former principals, chairpersons of Board of Management, chairpersons of head students and top students in national exams. Hall of Fame — is the lingo and language known to all and sundry.

Moreover, institutions preserve memories in their panoply of philosophies and eclectic ethos — slogans, mottos, missions, visions, anthems and theme songs. Institutions dedicate buildings to personalities they would not want to forget about due to their indelible footprints on the sands of time.

Shiny plaques pasted on buildings also point to a riveting rehash of who presided over some colourful occasions in the recent and distant past. Ipso facto, there are important professional documents that preserve institutional memory. They include school logbook, visitors’ book, occurrence book, registration certificate, prospectus, brochure, development plan, strategic plan, and minutes of staff, Board of Management, Parents Association, et cetera.

Finally, annual events staged in institutions preserve memory. Some of these events could be alumni re-union, annual anniversaries, founders’ day, academic clinics and Annual General Meetings (AGMs). Some institutions also strive to preserve their history on portraits about founders and alumni. Or staging memorial lectures to extol lofty ideas and ideals of their local legends. When you visit Chewoyet High School in West Pokot, the staffroom is labeled Kenyatta House.

Therein, you see photos and writings about a section of our founding fathers – Kapenguria 6. History hums that the current staffroom was the court, where those legends were tried before facing final detention at the current Kapenguria Museum. I also think. Just like we have the statue of Senior Chief Koinange at Senior Chief Koinange Girls’ High School in Kiambu. Senior Chief Mwangeka Girls’ High School in Taita-Taveta should follow suit.

Likewise, Ng’iya Girls’ High School in Siaya should have a statue of Grace Akinyi Ogot. In addition, there should be a special building set aside to display her images, history of her career path and books she penned in her life time. This can leave a great impact on the attitude (mindset plus beliefs) of students learning in those great girls’ schools.

By Victor Ocheing’

The writer rolls out talks and training services.



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