Two days before the start of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams, Murang’a High School Deputy Principal Charles Karanja handed a Sh50,000 post-dated cheque to the top student, Robinson Wanjala Simiyu, with the promise that he could cash it if he topped in the national test. He did not disappoint.
He was the best candidate in the results announced yesterday, and the school’s principal, Mr Willie Kuria, was on hand to sign the cheque.
Though classified as a national school since 2014, Murang’a High is not quite in the league of traditional academic giants such as Alliance or Kenya High schools, which makes Wanjala’s outstanding performance all the more remarkable.
The Catholic Church-sponsored school, founded in 1964, yesterday basked in the national limelight for having produced the top student in the country.
In an interview with Nation, Wanjala said he will remember his fellow students and teachers for their collaborative spirit in academics and in social relations.
The school “is run like a family. We’re our brothers’ keepers. We have teachers who are like our parents, brothers and sisters. The school runs on ‘discipline, order and determination’ as the motto,” he said.
His parents, teachers and even himself had seen it coming. The live, televised announcement by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha did not come as a surprise when his name was first on the list having scored a straight A with a tally of 87.334 points. The cheque issued by the school will mature today, Mr Kuria confirmed.
“Don’t focus too much on my performance, just see God and his works,” Wanjala told Nation on phone from his parents’ Buru Buru home in Nairobi.
“My father and my teachers incessantly kept urging me on, saying, I was made for greatness, and I got to believe it,” he added.
He wanted to pursue medicine or engineering at the university, “but now that I’ve emerged top, I’m sure I’ll land a [place] at the University of Nairobi (UoN) where I’ll pursue my first choice — medicine.”
Wanjala attributes the greatest part of his success to his parents. If he were to be given a chance to make a choice to be born again: “I would chose my current parents, not even in the president’s family… my parents are just great,” he said matter-of-factly.
His father, Mr Pius Simiyu, was modest with words even as he exuded the pride of having raised a conqueror son who has catapulted his family to national fame.
“I can’t say it’s out of our own understanding that this success has come to pass. There is the almighty God in all this. The human input was I and teachers forming a partnership that gave room for the best interests of my boy,” he told Nation.
He admitted that he was worried for his son when the Covid-19 pandemic struck and forced long, unpredictable closure of schools. Wanjala, he added, said that all he needed was a tablet from which he could follow his lessons online.
With tablet in hand and internet connection, Wanjala stuck to a strict timetable and would judiciously revise his notes while observing a normal school schedule. “I’d break for lunch and supper as though I were in school. I did not interrupt my school revision timetable due to Covid-19,” he said.
Strengths and weaknesses
Mr Simiyu advises parents to trust their schoolteachers “since they know the strengths and weaknesses of a student.”
He says he resisted the urge to be over-intrusive in the affairs of his son.
“I just acted the parent… a good parent who strives to be my son’s friend. I would only chip in when I noted him digressing to some corner I felt was detrimental. I would talk him back into the rails… I’d liaise with his teachers to know how he was faring on. I’m that discreet parent who empowers his children to get the best of themselves.
“Mine is just to play facilitator and it works, evidence being my boy’s success,” he said.