Picture this: You wake up as early as 3.30am every morning before trekking 12km in search of education in wildlife-infested plains. Your father has separated with your mother after learning that she schemed to ensure you go to school.
These are some of the trials that characterised Naomi Nteiye's life in Segera ward, Laikipia county. Naomi, 15, defied this harsh reality to score 366 marks in KCPE last month at Jane Good All African Academy.
"I urge young girls to take education seriously. It is the only thing that can make a difference in their future," she said.
Naomi used to trek in a place heavily infested by elephants and hyenas. "We coped with wildlife as we were escorted by our brothers to school," she said. After school, she could not study at home as there was no table to place books on or even light at their manyatta.
Despite scoring good grades in school, she was also worried about lacking a father figure and the financial problems at home.
"I have never seen my father. I grew up without seeing him. He married another wife and went away with her," she said with bitterness in her face. "I lacked parental guidance because my parents are also not educated."
Her mother, Mercy Letimorit, said it is only God that helped her daughter navigate the difficulties before thriving.
"God helped her to finish school. When I took her to school, her father told me to carry my own cross, before leaving us," Letimorit said. But as soon as he left, she took her children to school.
She said Segera Mission has really helped them, as it provides them with everything, including medicine. She believes her children will help her when they finish schooling.
Naomi wants to become a lawyer to change the status of her family. "When I look at the status of the family, I'm not aware they can provide, but I would like to continue with education," she said.
Naomi is among 24 pupils who surpassed expectations at Jane Good All African Academy and are now headed to various secondary schools to join form one. The school has about 320 pupils. Naomi's success and that of other girls was celebrated across Laikipia county.
Despite all the problems, the first student got 400 marks, while the last student got 273 marks, making the mission school among those shining in Laikipia county.
This came as a shocker, as the school is located in a nomadic catchment, where parents keep livestock and when hit by drought, they keep migrating. The region is also inhabited by people who have not gone to school.
The area is also encumbered by early marriages, teen pregnancies, FGM and a nonexistent road network. However, due to closeness to the pupils, teachers and pastors have successfully guided and monitored the pupils to success.
Class teacher Martin Miriti, who has been in the school for two years, has been in charge of the class.
"Telling parents that having their child in school is something worthwhile is a challenge. We are bordering ranches that have several wild animals, threatening the lives of the pupils," Miriti said.
"They have encountered all kinds of problems, from walking long distances to lack of food. The meal we provide them in school serves them throughout the day."
Miriti said the academy's 11 teachers, including the headmaster are Godly and very prayerful.
"Looking down there, there is a forest where we pray for God to give us energy to at least support the pupils to become somebody in future," he said.
"We also ensure the syllabus is covered in time to ensure children are well equipped for the exam."
Miriti said he had to be diplomatic as a class teacher, striking a balance between the pupils and the parents. "The parents know that the children are theirs and what they tell them is different from what we tell them," he said, adding: "No girl has dropped out" despite rampant FGM, which is usually done secretively.
Deputy head teacher Isaiah Mwenda said teachers shower their pupils with love so that when told to do something, they know it is for their good.
Mwenda, who came to the school in 2015, said they engage parents most of the time for them to appreciate the goodness of education.
"During holidays, they go to graze their animals and they usually go far. Some of the parents do not know Kiswahili or English, but when they come to school, we give them an interpreter," he said.
The school also has a guidance and counseling department to help pupils. "We try to tell them that FGM is illegal and harmful and what is most important is education. The people here think FGM is legal and even the pupils feel they have to go through it," Mwenda said.