The Loreto story begins with Mary Ward, an Englishwoman who lived in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. A woman of her time and culture, she refused to be limited by the boundaries set by these. She dealt with Popes, Emperors, Cardinals and Bishops at a time when women were hardly meant to be seen or heard outside the home. While remaining deeply loyal to the Church her conviction that God was calling her to offer the same Church a new and special gift enabled her to transcend the boundaries imposed by a post-tridentine Church and post – Reformation persecution of Catholics in England. This gift was to focus chiefly on the lack of Education and Opportunity for women. The conviction that ‘women in time to come will do great things’ gave her the courage to step out and provide a means towards the realisation of this belief.Young women were inspired to join her and soon schools for girls were opened all over Europe.
At the heart of her education lay three values:
◆ The development of inner freedom(freedom)
◆ Learning to live in right relationships(justice)
◆ Living in out truth of who we are(sincerity)
From this comes true happiness and the ability to ‘Find God in all things’. These same values underpin all Loreto Education up to today.
In the 19th Century a young Irishwoman named Teresa Ball was sent to train with Mary Ward’s sisters and found a school in Ireland. She was only in her twenties when she returned to Dublin to open Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham. To this woman we owe the great missionary spirit which sent Loreto Sisters all over the world. By the time of her death in 1861 there were 39 Loreto Houses in five different continents.
It was from this Loreto Branch that the first school in East Africa, Loreto Msongari, was opened.
From very small beginnings Msongari grew and expanded into both Primary and Secondary.
LORETO VALLEY ROAD
In 1941 a crisis arose. Being a British colony, Kenya was affected by World War II. The army took over Msongari and the school relocated to Lumbwa (Kipkelion). Many parents did not want their young daughters to go so far away so a ‘temporary’ school was opened in Valley Road. When the war ended the school had established it’s own identity, it never closed and the pupils never rejoined Msongari.
Details of these years are scarce but the Annals relate that: ‘the school began with 6 boarders and 40 day pupils. The first classrooms were built with wood and Makuti. In February 1943, the boarding section closed. In September the foundation stone of new classrooms was laid. In May 1946 there were 104 children Standard 1-5. and babies who were 53. Until 1970 boys were admitted up to Std.3.
Right from the beginning we read of Music exams, Quizz competitions, Drawing prizes, Red Cross work and, as early as 1947, an Operetta ‘Peach Blossom’, Netball League matches, P.E. and Dancing, Elocution. Mary Ward’s ideal of all round education was very evident. A special place was also given to the spiritual formation of the pupils.
The School grew
It seems that what we now know as Valley Road grounds are made up of 4 different properties bought over the years. Annals are not clear on when exactly the Secondary Section began but there is a quote from January 1949 ‘ Big girls are slow to come in, I think because we are looked on as a kindergarten school still’ By January 1950 there were 9 classes(220) with 5 sisters and 3 lay teachers on the staff. Three girls sat for the Cambridge exams in 1955. With the opening of Bishops Road in 1951 and 3rd Ngong Avenue in 1953 access to the school improved.
A highlight of this time was the consecration of the Chapel to ‘Our Lady Immaculate’ on 11th April 1954. And in December 1955 the statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, which still welcomes all visitors, arrived.
May 27th 1967 saw the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of the opening of the school.
As the school expanded more room was needed. In 1974 the Lower Primary was built and in 1985 the Upper Primary was completed.