Finding the right international school in Mombasa shouldn’t be complicated, because the selection is much smaller, than in Nairobi. As always, it’s more of a case of ‘matching’ a child to the right school than a search for golden and shiny perfection.
If you dream of empty, white beaches and a turquoise ocean, Mombasa is a great place to be posted. Planeloads of shivering, upper-end tourists arrive here in the winter to take advantage of the sun, sea and sand but if you live here, you’re on a winner. If you’ve got a day off, you can just zip down to the South Coast resorts, like Tiwi or Diani, for a spot of diving, snorkelling or kite surfing and still be back for supper.
As far as housing is concerned, your money stretches quite a long way and you can probably afford to live in any of the neighbourhoods that are convenient for work, school and play. Expats do tend to choose either Kizingo or Tudor, on the main island, or settle across the bridge and closer to some of the famous Mombasa beaches, in Nyali or further out still in Bamburi.
As, currently, two out of three of the schools are day schools, with Braeburn Mombasa International School, being the only one with a boarding facility, location is important. Mombasa Academy is very conveniently in Nyali, one of the best residential areas in Mombasa. Braeburn is situated further north in Shanzu (within easy reach of Bamburi) and, unlike Mombasa Academy (which only operates buses for trips and matches), it offers a very efficient bus service from surrounding areas. The Braeburn boarding houses are situated further north again in Mtwapa.
The Aga Khan Academy is based near the Likoni ferry on the south end of Mombasa Island. There are those who feel that the site is a drawback, in that getting to it during rush hours can be stressful, but the school offers a highly successful bus service from out-lying areas which seems to cope well with local traffic. Mombasa traffic, rush-hour or not, tends to be a law unto itself, although school transport (goodness knows how) seems to manage to keep on schedule. Beware, there are no school buses running to the south coast across the Likoni ferry.
The schools mentioned above are the only obvious international schools in Mombasa and your choice may be made even easier if you already know which curriculum you are looking for. If you want your child to go down the International Baccalaureate route, I’m afraid it narrows down to one school, the Aga Khan Academy which teaches all the programmes from age six to 18, except that they do not offer the option of the Careers Related Programme as an alternative to the IB Diploma.
The other two schools both offer an adapted English curriculum from pre-school to graduation, with BMIS (as Braeburn is called locally) having recently added BTEC qualifications to its range. Neither of them bother with Common Entrance at 13+, although Mombasa Academy pupils sit the 11+ in certain subjects, mainly for internal assessment purposes. Both of these schools are much smaller than the Aga Khan Academy (literally half the size at under 300 students), which also might influence your choice.
Fees at the coast are cheaper than at the Nairobi and up-country Kenyan private schools. Mombasa Academy offers scholarships and occasional bursaries, while the Aga Khan School fees are subsidised throughout, especially for exceptional and deserving students.
We haven’t come across any expatriates, recently, who send their children to Kenyan schools. National schools used to follow the 8-4-4 system but have recently changed the curriculum framework with a New Education System. Kenyans now follow two years of pre-primary and six years of primary (in English), roughly equivalent to British National Curriculum Year 1 – 6, and take 5 subjects: Maths, English, Kiswahili, Science, Social studies, and Christian Religious Education. Secondary level is divided into two, three year sections and university studies take a minimum of three years. The academic year starts in January, unlike the British and American schools, which follow their overseas counterparts.
For more information on these schools, please go to each school’s individual entry on the GSGI database or The GSGI article 'Best schools in Mombasa considered by expats'.
Mombasa has always been seen more as a playground as it has it all in terms of coastal beauty and laid-back lifestyle, at a reasonable cost. However, the coast does supply all sorts of exciting educational outings for students as well as time out for families, even if the choice of schools is much narrower than in the capital Nairobi.