•Mara Girls Leadership School and Enkiteng LEPA School are among the schools that emerged tops in Narok county.
•Enkiteng LEPA School posted a remarkable mean grade of 327.00. Its motto: Don't exchange girls for cows, give them education.
Narok schools face challenges of FGM, teenage pregnancies, child labour, moranism and human-wildlife conflicts.
And yet two schools based in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve beat the odds to excel in Narok in the KCPE exam.
Mara Girls Leadership School and Enkiteng LEPA School are among the leaders.
Enkiteng LEPA School hosts orphans, vulnerable children and girls fleeing FGM and early marriage.
The star pupil is Beatrice Naanyu who scored 367 marks.
Seventeen students sat the exams at the school in Maji Moto-Naroosura ward of Narok South.
The school motto is 'Don't exchange girls for cows, give them education.'
When journalists visited, pupils, teachers, parents and villagers celebrated the good performance.
School director Hellen Nkuraiya attributed the good results to hard work, determination and cooperation among the pupils, teachers, parents and others stakeholders.
She said the children have been facing threats of the cut, forced marriage and child labour. These problems motivated her to open a rescue centre so that young girls and boys continue their education.
“These vices have compromised the education of the girl child and measures must be taken to stop them," Nkuraiya said.
"People must be informed of the importance of girls' education."
FGM is illegal, no matter who performs it, even in a hospital or clinic.
Parent David Sankale Kuluo told the Maasai community to stop FGM and concentrate on education, like the rest of the world.
Girls should not be seen as a source of dowry, they should be educated, he said.
Rael Kisianan and Beatrice Naanyu, who both scored 367 marks, praised the school for giving them a chance to study. They said without school, they might have been married off long ago.
Mara Girls Leadership School at the gateway of the Maasai Mara at Talek in Narok West had a mean score of 393.4, up from 367.02 in 2020.
Leah Nabulu Nabaalah was the top student with 412 marks, followed by Tabitha Naserian Meingati with 409 marks and Resian Rinka with 408 marks.
The institution is a model school established and fully sponsored by Basecamp Foundation Kenya. The aim is to mentor a generation of reform-minded leaders by providing secure and quality education for talented girls.
The foundation targets girls in the vulnerable ages of 10-14 and aims for 100 per cent of them to join high school by providing scholarships.
Former manager of Basecamp Foundation Kenya Amos Kipeen praised the girls for their good performance despite the challenges they faced before coming to the school.
Kipeen, whois also Kenya director of the Olive Seed Foundation, said many people believed it was not possible to run girls' school in such a place, given all the challenges.
He said in the future they will target more than 400 girls to ensure they get their rights to education, just like other girls in the country.
“Our pupils normally go to the best national schools and that is a big plus for us. It makes us continue to work hard to ensure all girls remain in school."The girls will be an asset not only to the Maasai community but also the entire country,” Kipeen said.
Founder Barbs Mackraz of Olive Seed Foundation US, one of the donors to the school, said she got in touch with the school in 2017 and realised the passion the girls had for reading.
She said since then, she has been bringing reading materials and helped stock their library.
“This school is the face of transformation as these girls are the leaders of tomorrow. I am moved by their determination as they come from humble backgrounds,” said Barbs who is also co-founder of OliveSeed Foundation Kenya.
She is sponsoring three girls in high school and will continue doing so.
School head teacher Maureen Atieno said out of the 15 girls who sat for the examination, 13 girls scored over 380 marks that qualifies them to join a national school.
FGM and early marriages are rampant in Narok due to social-cultural beliefs but resistance is powerful. Arrest and prosecution are difficult. Family and witnesses usually fail to cooperate.
After the school closed down in 2020 due to Covid-19, scores of people were arrested in most of the six subcounties for allegedly engaging in FGM. Some cases are pending in court.
(Edited by V. Graham)