Milka Wanjiru and her father Elijah Kiarie were glued to their TV screen on Wednesday afternoon as Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha released the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam results.
It was then that her name and that of her former school were mentioned.
For the family, which lives at the border of Aberdare Forest in Kinangop, Nyanda- rua, a mention from the CS was previously unthinkable given that Wanjiru had per- formed poorly in her primary examination, and her secondary school is a “lowly day school” in a remote village.
Wanjiru, who was a candidate at Gathara Secondary School, a mixed day school where she was admitted after garnering 179 marks out of the possible 500 in Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam, pulled a surprise and scored a B- (minus).
“Everybody in the house shouted because we never expected a name of some- one like me, who was in a very ‘small’ school and who four years ago was subject of ridicule due to poor performance to at- tract the attention of a minister,” Wanjiru said yesterday.
Shortly after, neighbours and teachers began streaming into their home to con- gratulate her, a sharp contrast with what happened in 2015 when she left Nyakiambi Primary School in Mirangine village with 179 marks out of the possible 500.
Wanjiru, who was ranked as the most improved candidate in this year’s KCSE exam, said her primary school results had shattered her dreams of becoming an aero- nautical engineer, but her father’s encouragement renewed her hopes.
“My father told me not to be discouraged by my performance and that I should take my enrollment in secondary school as a second chance. At the beginning, my performance was not appealing but with time, I improved to be among the top five students in class,” she said.
The improvement did not come easy as she had to wake up at 3am daily to study and seek her teachers’ intervention whenever she did not understand a concept.
“I knew that the performance (KCPE), which I was also not proud of, had really affected her but I stood with her with a caution that she must redeem herself once she joins secondary school and she did just that. I am very proud father,” said Kiarie
Another candidate, Richard Mbugua from Kiambaa Mixed Secondary School in Karuki, Kiambu county, who scored a C+, said he had lost hope after he scored 183 marks out of the possible 500 in his KCPE exam, attracting ridicule from neighbours.
Mbugua, who was also recognised by Magoha on Wednesday, did his KCPE at Kibubuti Primary School.
Out of fear that they would be subjected to shame if their son did not join a second- ary school like his peers, his parents made every effort to ensure he joined Kiambaa, which was started in 2014 by area MP Paul Koinange through NG-CDF.
“During my first two years, I would score E and D grades during end term exams be- cause I had also written myself off. But in Form Three, I changed my attitude and the performance began improving,” Mbugua told People Daily yesterday.
The school principal Olive Ndung’u said a change of attitude and determina- tion by Mbugua led to his improvement, which she said, helped debunk the myth that primary school scores determined one’s future.
“If they (learners) show determination, they will become whatever they want. All they need is qualified teachers and facili- ties,” Ndung’u said.
Joseph Mwangi from Mukui Secondary School in Morono village in Ndia, Kirin- yaga county, was also listed among the most improved candidates having risen from 193 marks in his KCPE exam to a C plus grade in KCSE exam.
Mwangi said after Class Eight, he wanted to join a village polytechnic to pursue a vocational course but his mother, out of the fear of shame if he did not join sec- ondary school, forcibly took him to the day school. “I swore to do whatever I could to improve my performance through hard work although it took time for the results to be seen,” he told People Daily yesterday.
Hesaid failure to raises chool fees would sometimes see him stay at home for even a month. A bridge on his way to school would also be swept away sometimes during the rainy seasons.