John Karmali and Hospital Hill Primary School, Nairobi

Hospital Hill Primary School NairobiIn 1949, Ismaili John Karmali, a member of the club, was worried about educating his children. He had married an English woman, and this was “almost the first mixed marriage in that mini-South Africa, which Kenya was in those days,” as his wife Joan recalled nearly four decades later. Indeed, she and her husband could not eat in the same restaurant. In segregated Nairobi, the Karmali children were not allowed to enroll in white schools. With five other Asian parents in 1950, the Karmalis founded the Hospital Hill Primary School, began in the Karmalis’ home and later located on what is now State House Road, which was open to children of all races. Within several years, it gained financial assistance from the colonial administration.

The Beautiful Plants of Kenya by John KarmaliJohn Karmali is a prolific author and has written several books including “Beautiful Birds of Kenya” and “Beautiful Plants of Kenya”.

Source: http://unitedkenyaclub.com/ukc/history.htm
A School in Kenya: Hospital Hill, 1943-1979 (Paperback)
The Beautiful Plants of Kenya (Paperback)

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, its achievements and humanitarian works.

63 thoughts

  1. Beloveds:
    I am a proud Alumnus of the Hospital Hill Primary School. It was the first ever really multi-racial primary school in Kenya and I was so blessed to have had the experience of being a part of that unique learning environment. I highly recommend John Karmali’s book!
    Love, light and shadow,
    Jalaledin

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    1. In this the Jalal Ebrahim that I knew? We hooked up briefly in 1982/84 when you were running your family tour business and I was teaching at the University of Nairobi Dental Facuklty. Where on earth are you? Please get in touch.

      Sopiato (Sophie) Likimani.
      sopiato.likimani@gmail.com

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  2. I am another proud alumnus of Hopital Hill School (HHS) Nairobi (1958-1962) which provided us with great confidence and was such a sound foundation. We were prepared to face ANYTHING that life threw at us…… Many of us HHS contemporaries conrinued on to High School in Kenya remain good friends until this day.

    Sopiato (Sophie)

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    1. I too attended Hospital Hill School from 1959 to 1962. Sophie, I was a classmate of your sister Soila (Sheila). I have wonderful memories of those years and a nice photograph of my class taken around 1962. Our teacher was Mrs. Hawksworth. My sister Helen also attended the school and is in one of the photos in the book.

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      1. Hi Naila and Marcia..wel well well. the gang is nearly all here. How are you all..where are you all and where is everybody else. Hi TO Soila too and Sophia. my email address is yvonnefaure@hotmail.com…Id love to hear from all of you…..where is Biddy aka Shirin Karmali.

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        1. Hi Yvonne,
          Please contact me at mldiaz50@comcast.net. I would love to be in touch with classmates. I was in touch with Sheila (Soila) Likimani for years and then last year my Christmas card was returned. Not sure if she moved or what. I have a picture of Mrs. Hawksworth’s class (minus me as I took the picture). Would love to send you a copy.
          Marsha

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    2. I remember you from Cobham Hall. You played the organ very well and I was one of your classmates. I am now a Speech Therapist. I tried to contact you a long time ago when I came to Kenya but failed. I don’t know if you will get this but if you do, my email is standing.by@virgin.net
      Caro

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    3. Hi, Sopiato, and former alumni of Hospital Hill! I am Elizabeth Rerente ene Mpaayei, one of the 6 Mpaayei kids who all attended Hospital Hill (I attended circa ’62-67.) We all loved HHS dearly, and it is part of our family and is still close to our hearts.

      I started out at Old Hospital Hill under Mrs. Angus as Headmistress– Sopiato, you would remember her? This was just before we moved to the New Hospital Hill. I remember Sopiato (Sophie,) Sheila (Soila,) Firoza and Sheherazad, Stella Abwao, Jenny Karmali, Alice Ndisi and of course Esther and Roy Ndisi. Jenny Karmali and I were very close friends, but she never told me that John and Joan Karmali had founded Hospital Hill! So this website has been a revelation to me and I would love to read the book.

      Of the teachers, of course I remember Anne da Gama Rose and Mr. French: Stanley founded the first school magazine, I think, and I poured out my little heart into a short story…I had already decided it was going to be a series of cliff-hangers, although I had already written the entire tale. Stanley came up to me and asked me if I would be able to produce the next two installments and I confidently said yes, knowing that I had already produced them. I still have that original manuscript, written in my first writing book, a black leatherette which my father had given me. Fiona was another budding writer – do you remember her, Stanley?

      Stanley, you will also be interested to know that at the Kenya High I ended up on some meets with the Nairobi Track Team thanks to your early gym coaching at HHS. Your history lessons were great; you knew a lot about Ibn Batuta, and made him seem alive. I remember Mrs. Barnes, Mrs. Finch, Mrs. Thomas, Miss Rice, Mrs. Hagburg, Suleiman Vania (may he rest in peace,) and his wife, who taught me sewing. Does everyone remember Mr. and Mrs. David King? How about Miss White, our favourite music teacher? I remember Begum Verjee (who played Beethoven’s Fur Elise beautifully,) and I were in her choir.

      All six of us Mpaayei children used to play the “do you remember?” game constantly. Happy childhood memories warm the heart and keep a little bit of heaven in our hearts all the rest of our lives. Thank you so much, John and Joan Karmali, you gave a great gift to Kenya when you donated the first site for the school. You campaigned generously and tirelessly for the kind of education in which my parents, the late Rev. & Mrs. John Tompo ole Mpaayei, so much believed.

      On a merry note, does anyone remember Faiza Mohammed, very bright and bubbly and cheerful? One day, one of the gentlemen who worked around the school came and went by us so fast that someone said, “Where did that man go?” And Faiza made a little rhyme that went, “Where did that mango, mango, mango??” We split our sides laughing. We used to have so much fun! I hope everyone has never forgotten how important it is to laugh.

      Dear friends, I now live in Ottawa, Canada and my married name is Brown. I can not wait to hear from my old teachers and schoolmates at lizbrown2007@hotmail.com. All of you above and anyone else who remembers me is welcome to e-mail at any time. Memory lane is wonderful!

      God Bless and Keep you all – Elizabeth

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      1. Hi Sopiato,and any other alumni I have been trying to get in touch with you for many years. I was so happy to discover this site- brought back many memories of HHS! (And of Kenya High to follow)I’d love to hear back from my classmates Shahina Daar ( nee Jaffer) grad of 1962 sf.daar@gmail.com

        Sent from my iPad

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      2. Hello I am Shona King, David King’s daughter. My father was the head teacher of HHS in the 60’s and my mother Bette worked in the school too. We came back to Scotland in 1974 and I am still here. Unfortunatly my Dad passed away in October 2009 and my brother Gordon also passed away aged 50 in Pangani Tanzania where he lived, he is also buried there. My Mum is still alive and is nearly 90 years old.
        I have fond memories of my childhood in Kenya and know my brother loved Africa hence the fact he is buried there. his home.

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        1. Hi – I am Firoza Culligan (nee Moddie). So good to hear from you. My sister, Sheherazad, and I now live in UK but my mother is still in Nairobi. We are still in touch with Anne da Gama Rose.

          The best school days of my life were HHS.

          Your father was just the best!

          My email is ficulligan@gmail.com for anyone who wishes to contact me

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      3. Hello
        My name is Shona King. My parents were David and Bette King and my brother was Gordon.

        I live in a town called Musselburgh just outside Edinburgh. Where my parents came back to in 1974.

        Sadly my Dad passed away in October 2009 of a heart attack aged 80.
        My brother lived in Tanzania and sadly passed away of a heart attack January 2011 aged 50 in Tanzania and is buried there.
        My beloved Mum just passed away this year 2nd July 2017 aged 90. Cancer.

        I am 54 and have 3 children. 2 boys and a girl. I also have 3 grand daughters. I work as a nursery nurse. Looking after 3-5 year olds. Love it.

        I have fond memories of Kenya and my parents.

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        1. Dear Shona

          I remember you so well plus your brother and of course your parents.

          I am still in touch with Anne da Gama Rose whom I am sure you also remember.

          Fond and happy memories of those days and your lovely family

          Fi (Firoza Moddie) Culligan

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  3. i am a young parent with my son having joined class one this year 2010
    he loves the school and all i can say is bravo to you all who pioneered it
    i myself went to westlands primary in the 90s but something still drove me to
    hospital hill minding it topped up nairobi for the last 3yrs academically
    congrats mr kharmali. keep me posted for your good leadership

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  4. I went to hospital hill when i lived in kenya in 2007 and 2008 . i really like the school it was a good experience for me coming from eden prairie, minnesota. thanks John Karmali

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    1. Linda,
      I was a teacher at Hospital Hill School from 1965-68. I taught Grade 7 social studies and English and PE to all students. I have retired after 45 years in education and would love to do something for the students in Kenya. Any thoughts? i now live in Vancouver BC, Canada. My email address is stanleyf@shaw.ca.
      I would love to hear from former HHS students wherever they are.
      Stanley

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    2. Hi Linda Robinson and other alumni
      I have very fond memories of my time at Hospital Hill. We were in part of 3rd, 4th, and part of 5th grade together. You gave me the motion sickness pill that didn’t work out very well. Remember I threw up on Beth Grove during a test. Are you still in Virginia? My e-mail is phillis@cox.net.

      Pam (Ellis) Hillis

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  5. I was a teacher and vice-principal at Hospital Hill School from 1965-68. I taught PE to all classes and English and Social Studies to Standard 7 – the KPE class. This was one of the most rewarding experiences I had during my 45 years as an educator. John Karmali, his wife and those who supported them back in the 50s and 60s were true visionaries. I would dearly love to make contact with former students and staff. I believe that Hospital Hill alumni could be a constructive force in helping Kenya face its challenges today. I would love to be part of the movement. God bless John and Joan Karmali! Feel free to contact me.
    stanleyf@shaw.ca

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    1. Hello “Mr French”! I was just googling Hospital Hill whilst reminiscing! I do remember you and wonder if you remember me – Sheherazad Moddie.
      I now live in the UK – you can contact me at sherrie@aboutafrica.co.uk.
      Funnily enough my sister Firoza is keen to get in touch and I will give her your email address.
      Best regards

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      1. Hi Sheherazad. Of course I remember you and your sister. I finally got around to responding. I’m not totally adept at Facebook although I’m trying to improve with help from my granddaughter. I’d love to strike up a conversation directly by email. Please contact me at stanleyf@shaw.ca and we can catch up on our lives since HHS.
        Cheers, Stanley

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    2. I loved my time at HHS and what a coincidence … just joined Face Book last week and tried to find you!! I have lots of news as have been in touch with Anne da Gama Rose all my life (family friend). Would love to hear from you. Firoza Culligan (nee Moddie) – you will remember me as I was SO BAD at PE!!!!

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      1. Hi Firoza!! I believe you and I were in the same class at HHS together with Jenny Karmali and Tasnim Nanji? Would be great to hear from you and others who were in our class – I have a very old black and white picture somewhere in an album at home in Kenya

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        1. Hi Stella

          Good to hear from you. I remember Tasneem Nanji in my class and Alice Ndisi (who I have met on a few occasions in Nairobi). I do not remember Jenny Karmali.

          Where do you live these days. I moved from Nairobi to UK about 4 years ago. Went to visit my mother earlier this year. How everything has changed!

          Fi (Firoza)

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          1. Hi Fi – SO NICE to hear from you!! I have thought of you and other school mates often over the years!! Please contact me directly through sabwaon@gmail.com and we can definitely catch up!
            Best,
            Stella

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      2. Firoza, sorry it has taken so long to respond. I lost my way in Facebook (although I’m getting better) and somehow deleted your original email. I would love to begin a conversation with you and other ex HHS ‘kids’ so that we can learn about each other’s lives since then. My email is stanleyf@shaw.ca. looking forward to hearing from you. Stanley

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        1. So sorry about the long delay in replying. I will send you an email as I see my sister, Sheherazad forwarded a message from you. Yes we are still in touch with Anne da Gama Rose (sadly Mirabeau passed away last year). My father stayed in touch with the Kings too.

          Shocked to hear about Arthur Porter – I remember him well as he was in my class.

          Will send you some more information via email.

          Firoza

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        1. Hi Bridget – Penny your sister was a great friend of mine at school – in the same class. I have fond memories of staying at your house and the occasional trip to Naivasha. Sadly we lost touch after she went to Bedales. According to my parents, Penny came to my 1st Birthday party!!! I now live in UK. Where are you and Penny?

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    3. Stanley,
      I left HHS for Kenya High School Dec 1962, so never met you.
      However, I am due to make a long planned epic trip to Canada almost all of September, stopping off at Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton.

      Sounds like there are quite a lot of HHS alumni in Canada? Would be great to have an HHS reunion sometime

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    4. Just found this site amazing! This is Alice Ndisi-Herrmann Hospital Hill 1961.. Yes Mr. French was our PE teacher. I see a lot of our old class and of course Mrs. Da Gama Rose.
      Just love that we all are connecting.

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  6. Hi all,
    My name is Kanyi Ohawa, a former student of Hospital Hill School (finished 1989) and a current parent there. We are in the process of organising an alumni get together on the 28th of July, this year. We plan to have a swimming gala and BBQ. It would be great if you could all get involved. Please check out our facebook page, Hospital Hill Primary School for more details. This is an open group so it is easy to join it.
    Feel free to get in touch with me also for more details.
    Thanks.

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    1. Kanyi,
      I am so happy there is a group of alumni from HHS. I will not be able to attend the upcoming celebration but I will be there in spirit. I was a teacher from 1965-68 and, as secretary to the PTA, helped raise funds to build the swimming pool. Unfortunately I left Nairobi before the pool was built. Someday I will see it!
      Please share my best wishes to those who attend. I would love to be part of building the alumni group. I believe HHS alumni could contribute a lot to rebuilding the education system in Kenya.
      I will check out the Facebook page.
      Stanley French

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      1. Hi Stanley,
        Thank you so much for your very encouraging remarks! People like you who were there at the early stages of HHS life would be invaluable in our alumni as you know what the culture of that school was. We will definately keep you in the loop as we build the alumni; we would love any old pictures that you have of the school also… if you do not mind sharing.
        Kind regards,
        Kanyi

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  7. Hi
    for some reason I was thinking of “Sophie” and ‘Sheila{ Likimani today and decided to google. Was in the same class as Sheila with my twin brother Naushad. The school moved from the Arboretum site ( which was great and great play place) To Parklands in our last year.
    Naushad still lives in Nairobi and I hope to go out in November. Still go past both sites with very strong fond memories.
    Loved the book by Shirin Karamlis Mum.
    Naila Webb (nee Gwaderi)

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    1. HI Naila and Naushad. Yvonne Faure here. I had been looking for school mates on line but to no avail I saw a facebook site and the book. I was told to google the book and here I am. Do you remember Pammy Mota Singh has anyone heard of her. Also looking for Biddy Karmail to aka Shirin Karmali.
      Also Janet Meynell. My email address is yvonnefaure@ hotmail .com

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  8. Hello all, Sophie I was also at HH with you and then at Kenya High. Would love to get back in touch!
    Shahina Jaffer ( now Daar)

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    1. Shahina,

      I have been looking for you for AGES – obviously in the wrong places? Where do you live these days? Am planning on an epic trip to UK and Canada Aug – October, looking up old KHS pals and retracing my late sister Soila’s footsteps in Canada. Please do get in Touch through my email: Sopiato.likimani@gmail.com

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      1. Hi Sopiato,
        Please get in touch with me at mldiaz50@comcast.net
        I would like to know about Soila…we have exchanged news at Christmas for years but my card in 2012 was returned and I had no idea why.
        Take care,
        Marsha Diaz

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  9. Hi…my name is Bishwadeep Chatterjee…was at HHS from ’74 – ’77… Mr. Cutler was the headmaster… Ms. Hagburg was the deputy I think… Ms. Ogila…..was one of the nicest teachers, Ms. Wray….taught us science…. Mr. Pecket loved his old Benz and Beetle…kept in immaculate condition…..

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        1. Hi, this is Stanley French, former teacher and vice-principal at Hospital Hill School 1965-68. Anne Ryce came to HHS while I was there. She had a short lived marriage. Later she married Alan Cutler who came to HHS after I had moved to Yokohama. However, I did visit Anne and Alan in Duncan on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I haven’t seen them for a few years and do not know whether they are together or not. I didn’t know Alan but Anne was a wonderful teacher and a nice person. I would love to hear from more HHS students. My 4 years there were among the happiest years of my life. Regards to all HHS alumni. Stanley

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    1. I HATED MR PECKET, but am surprise that you remember Cutler, as he married my STD one teacher MS Norris and left in ’73. Remember puff the magic dragon that she used to sing? He on the other hand was more into Kumbaya my lord on his guitar.

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  10. Yes, Cutler and Ms Norris did get divorced. I knew her brother Peter, who came from Kenya and was a car dealer in Vancouver.

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  11. Hello Everyone, My name is Ishrath Velshi. I came across this site quite by chance. I attended HHS from 1966-1971 at which time we moved to Canada. Mr. King was the the Principal and Mr. French, the VP at the time. I used to play with Mr. and Mrs. Kings children (who lived in the house on the school’s property). Zaitun Vania was my std 1 teacher. I am in touch with her here in Toronto. Begum Verjee is my cousin and also lives in Canada. I often share stories of HHS with my children, particularly those elocution and French classes. The memories are absolutely priceless. I can be reached at ishrath@velshi.com.
    Ishrath Velshi

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  12. Hi,

    I found this thread by searching for Joan Karmali’s book about Hospital Hill. I’m Graeme King – David and Betty’s grandson and Gordon’s son. I have been desperately trying to find the book for months but to no avail. Could anyone point me in the direction of finding this book as I know my gran would love to read it after all these years. I’m sure she would also love to hear from any colleagues/students. My email is graeme_k@live.co.uk

    Cheers!

    Graeme

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    1. Hi Graeme,
      I was able to purchase the book a few years ago and have been trying to get a second copy for my sister but it seems it is no longer available through any publisher. The first time I went through the publisher and was put in direct contact with Joan Karmali who was a personal friend of my mother’s; however the e-mail address I have for her no longer works as I have tried to get back in contact with her a couple of times in the past year. I have also tried to contact her daughter who was a classmate of mine but to no avail. Good luck trying to find it and let me know if you have any success.
      Marsha Diaz

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    2. I have just seen this message. Anne da Gama Rose may know where you can find a copy of the book. Sadly I have misplaced mine. Remember your father well and your grandfather VERY well. Such happy days at HHS. Fi (Firoza Culligan nee Moddie). My email is ficulligan”gmail.com

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  13. I am Alice Ndisi-Herrmann, great reading all the comments from all the wonderful people of Hospital Hill.
    We all still talk about the impact the school had on all of us, especially as Kenya transitioned.
    I live in Nairobi, would love top meet up.

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  14. I Am a proud.alumnus of HHS… it natured my swimming talent and I Am a proud rugby referee with international rugby board. it instilled sports discipline in me. I Am also doing fine academically .it has made me an all round person

    I however have a request, is it possible to get copies of certificates from the swimming department. I was involved in competitive swimming between 1997-2001 or even earlier
    thanks

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