HISTORY OF IISM
A Colonial School 1956-61
Isamilo School started as a school for European children at the end of the colonial period. The school was started by expatriate parents in the bank manager’s house. Two classrooms were built, where Year Two are currently located.
Numbers grew, and in April 1958 the school was taken over by the colonial government and Miss McKnight was appointed headmistress. Work was done to improve the school site, an office and a third classroom were added and the grounds were terraced.
At this time, the school was known as, The Government European School. There were about forty children aged from five to eight years. At independence in 1961, a new head was appointed: Miss Betty Gray.
A Government School 1961-65
On independence, the school was renamed Isamilo Primary School and opened up to all races, but since the fees were relatively high, and many of the expatriates returned to Europe, the numbers dwindled to just twenty pupils. Recognising the need to maintain an international type of school and being unable to recruit teachers itself, the government sold the school to the Anglican Diocese, under Bishop Wiggins, in April 1965. Miss Gray had done a sterling job in keeping the school going during this difficult period.
A Mission School 1965-97
In 1968, the Bishop’s son, Richard Wiggins, came to teach at Isamilo and the following year he was appointed Headmaster, a position he held for the following twenty eight years.
These buildings sufficed for many years and numbers rose to 140. Each class would have two, or sometimes three, age groups. Ex-pupils report that the school had a happy, relaxed atmosphere. The children looked forward to ‘The Game of Life’, a wide-game played under the night sky, and the grand occasion of Sports Day, which took on Olympic proportions over several days. In the 1970s, the government changed the rules for Standard Seven exams, so that they had to be taken in Kiswahili. This forced the school to abandon the Tanzanian syllabus. A curriculum based on Antipodean methods was adopted as most teachers were recruited from Australia or New Zealand. One consequence of this was that while numbers in the younger classes grew, fewer children stayed in the older classes.
Throughout the lifetime of the school, students from overseas have come to Isamilo for a “Gap Year”. In 1973, a young student called Peter Mandleson came to work at the school. The school log reports that during his time at Isamilo, his class visited a ship, a local factory and the town’s high court: the sort of experiences you might expect from a future European Commissioner.
The 1970s and 1980s were a difficult period, with many restrictions on economic activity - possessing two tubes of toothpaste could be considered hoarding. The early 1990s, by contrast was a time of liberalisation, with the growth of many independent schools. This enabled the school to raise fees so that a new large library could be completed and a new wing of classrooms added; this enabled the school to have single-age classes.
Expansion into Secondary – 1997 Onwards
In 1997, Mr Wiggins retired to New Zealand and Mr Barry Clement from the UK was appointed headmaster. Numbers in the younger classes were strong, but they were much lower in the older age groups since the syllabus was not preparing children for secondary education in either the Tanzanian or the international system.
Since Mwanza is the second city of Tanzania, it was felt that an international secondary school would be viable and so Isamilo embraced a new educational phase.
A more open admission policy was adopted, and preschool and reception classes were added. The British curriculum was also introduced, and adapted for the needs of an international community in Tanzania. Numbers in the school rose from 145 to 360 from 1997 to 2002.
The school was extended into secondary years, one year at a time, starting in 1998 with Year Seven (age 11 pupils). This gradual process gave time for classrooms to be built, facilities to be developed - such as a computer room, science laboratories, an art room and a music room - and specialist staff to be appointed.
By 2001 twelve new classrooms had been built on the main school site, as well as a multi-purpose hall, swimming pool and two tennis courts. In addition, the school had acquired the bishop’s old house, which was adapted to form the Early Years Department with four classrooms for children aged from three to six.
In 2003, the first cohort completed Year 11 and took their IGCSEs, performing very well. It was in this year that the administration of Isamilo was formally split into Primary and Secondary. Mr Clement took the new role as Head of Secondary and his wife, Mrs Ruth Clement became Head of Primary.
By 2008, Isamilo had established itself as an International School within Tanzania. Mr and Mrs Clement had seen the school through a period of change and consolidation, and Mr. Ian Wood, who was Deputy Head of Secondary at Isamilo in 2003-05 returned to take on the role of headmaster, with Miss Carol Newman, Mr. Jonathan Robbins and Mr. Paul Footitt as Heads of Early Years, Junior and Secondary Departments. These three departments benefit from a close relationship with each other, ensuring that the family atmosphere, which the school has always enjoyed, is maintained and built upon.
Mr. Wood brought with him a clear vision to drive the school forward, and in early in 2009 the school name was officially re-registered as “Isamilo International School, Mwanza” (from Isamilo Primary School – which was registered in 1961!), the school was inspected and government approval was granted for the expansion into A Levels. August 2009 saw the start of a new Year 12 offering International A Levels with Miss Melissa Wilkin taking on the role of Head of Sixth Form Department. Two boarding houses were also opened, offering accommodation to boys and girls on different sites for children from Year 5 upwards.
The school has been able to expand at both its higher end and for its youngest pupils. In early 2009, an additional pre-school class was added to meet the rising demand for places for the younger children. In August 2010 an additional Reception class was added to now make the school two-form entry from the age of 4.
The church appointed Mrs Barbara Spring as the new headmistress and during the next year or so numbers grew to seventy, with new teachers coming from the mission societies, and many Indian pupils transferring as the character of the colonial Indian schools changed dramatically on independence. The school now catered for the full primary range up to Standard Seven at 14 years of age.