Butere Girls was in the limelight in 2013, when its controversial play, Shackles of Doom, by Cleophas Malala (now the Kakamega County Deputy Speaker), was banned from being performed at the national drama festival allegedly because it could incite ethnic disharmony.
Butere Girls was founded in 1916 by Jane Chadwick, an Irish Anglican missionary, according to Prof Watson Omolukoli in the Dictionary of African Christian Biography. The learners were first taught reading, writing, catechism and sewing, lessons that proved quite popular. Small pox initially affected the school’s enrollment, as well as the two world wars. While men went to war, women studied. Miss Chadwick oversaw the growth of Butere Girls such that by 1957, it was ranked second only to Alliance Girls. Miss Chadwick retired and died in Armagh, Ireland in 1940 aged 71.
Butere Girls boasts of prominent alumni who were guided by the motto, ‘Pour Seulement Le Meilleur’ (Only the Best). They include Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch, the first Kenyan judge at The Hague; Lady Justice Effie Owuor, Kenya’s first female High Court judge; Mary Okello, Kenya’s first female bank manager and founder of Makini Schools; and Prof Florida Karani, the first woman Chancellor of Maseno University.
Others who wore its red skirts and white blouses include flamboyant Ambassador Orie Rogo-Manduli; former Wiper party presidential running mate, Prof Julia Ojiambo, also the first woman MP from Western Kenya. Other ‘Old Girls’ are dentist-turned-politician, Dr Naomi Shaban; Rachael Ruto, wife to the Deputy President; Elizabeth Masiga, the first woman chief inspector of schools and director of education; and world-renown research scientist, Prof Norah Olembo.