Kilifi teen Marrieta Kazungu shortlisted for Sh14m global student prize

Marrieta Kazungu

Marrieta Kazungu, 18, a  student at Kilifi’s St Thomas Girls Secondary School who is among 50 top students shortlisted for the Global Student Prize 2023.  

Photo credit: Pool

A Kenyan teenager from the Coast is among the top 50 students shortlisted for the Sh14 million ($100,000) Global Student Prize 2023.

Marrieta Kazungu, an 18-year-old student at St Thomas Girls Secondary School in Kilifi County, is one of 10 African students to make the top 50 shortlist, selected from 3,851 applications from 122 countries.

Now in its third year, the Global Student Prize is awarded to exceptional students who have made a real impact on learning, the lives of their peers and society.

“Marrieta is working to combat the impact on young people growing up in remote rural areas of Kenya, where poverty is widespread, access to good healthcare is a challenge and girls are seen as second-class citizens.”

“Marrieta has developed a passion for science and technology, with a particular interest in how to provide better healthcare for people in her community, and has reached out to her peers at school to show them how they can improve the health of their mothers, young children and elderly people,” says the Global Student Prize 2023.

Marietta is the president of her school’s Science and Innovation Club. Her school came up with a project to combat malnutrition in the community and raise awareness of nutritional health in schools.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Marrieta designed and developed a biomedical device that could detect and test for respiratory infections and provide immediate results. This was a silver bullet for a health system overwhelmed by high number of infections.

An advocate for girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem), Marrieta has also excelled in international debating competitions and won an impressive number of international science awards.

St Thomas Girls Secondary School Principal Eunice Mwaiseghe said told President William Ruto about the girl’s achievements when he visited last week. The President promised to expand the school to accommodate more girls.

“Marrieta is a brilliant, outgoing and very confident girl. She is headed for greater things. She’s a candidate this year, has a passion for innovation and giving back to the society. She travelled a week ago and is in London for the award and will be there for two weeks. She is with two other students from Maryhill and St Starehe Girls. She loves English and sciences particularly chemistry,” Ms Mwaiseghe said.

Her mother Drufenna Doris Kulola said the former St Joseph’s Tudor Primary School pupil developed an interest in science at a tender age.

“She is a focused girl. In education matters she is very keen. I am happy that she has been selected and I am praying for her to win,” said the Mombasa-based businesswoman. 

The Varkey Foundation has partnered with to launch the annual Global Student Prize in 2021, a sister award to the $1 million Global Teacher Prize, which was won by a Kenyan maths and physics teacher in 2019. Mr Peter Tabichi, a teacher at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, Nakuru County, won the prize for using technology and available resources to teach his students.

The intention was to create a powerful new platform to shine the light on the efforts of extraordinary students around the world who, together, are changing our world for the better.

The prize is open to any student aged 16 and above enrolled in an academic institution or in a training and skills programme. Part-time students and students enrolled in online courses are also eligible.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said Marrieta’s story was a testament to the vital role education plays in building a better world for all.

Kenya has historically done well in the Global Student Prize, with Amisa Rashid, a Kenyan student from Nairobi who was studying public policy at Strathmore University at the time, making the top 10 shortlist for the Global Student Prize in 2021.

Applications and nominations for this year’s Global Student Prize opened on 19 January and closed on 14 May. The top 10 finalists for the Global Student Prize are expected to be announced in August this year. The winner, who will be announced later in the year, will be selected from the top 10 finalists by the Global Student Prize Academy, a group of eminent personalities.