Little known school trounces academic giants in Tharaka Nithi

Kiurani High School students attend a Swahili lesson the school scored a mean score of 9.7 in KCSE 2015.
Kiurani High School students attend a Swahili lesson the school scored a mean score of 9.7 in KCSE 2015.

A little known school in Tharaka Nithi County has beaten all odds to post exemplary results in the just released KCSE examination.

Kiurani High School in Chogoria ward, Maara constituency, got a mean score of 9.78, beating national schools in the region like Ikuu Boys and Chogoria Boys.

The school only came second to Chogoria Girls.

The school was established in 1974 and has been recording dismal results until they got a new principal, Nyaga Kinyua, in 2011.

Kinyua says he was almost chased out of the school when he took over. “The board of management had rejected me without any good reason — they only said they do not know me. I remember it was on a Friday. I went away but I vowed to return the following Monday,” Kinyua said.

He said he was so determined to uplift the school’s performance whose KCSE mean score was 4.34 at the time.

“At first it was very difficult to change the students’ attitude towards effective learning. However, a long journey begins with one step. I kept on motivating them to work hard and told them they had the potential to perform,” Kinyua told the Star in his office.

He said things began to change although in a slow pace but this did not discourage him.

In 2012, the mean score rose from 4.3 the previous year to 6.9, improving the school’s ranking in the district from position 29 to seven.

So determined to produce better results was Kinyua that he initiated an idea of taking his students to national schools to interact with other students.

“We started to partner with Chogoria Girls High School and I would take my students to attend some lessons. At first they would panic and fear the students at the school but they soon got used to it and realised they were no lesser human beings. They realised they too had great potential,” Kinyua said.

The school’s performance has been on an upward trajectory ever since.

In 2013, it rose from 6.97 to 7.57, and to 8.68 in 2014. However, last year’s results were by far the best results.

The school has been attaining its targets each year.

“In 2012, we set a target of attaining a mean score of six, in 2013 a mean score of seven, in 2014 a mean score of eight and in 2015 we had set a mean score of nine and above. We managed to get a mean score of 9.78 and this year we have agreed with my students to target at least a mean score of 10 and above,” Kinyua said.

“When put posters all over the school so that everybody is aware of our target… It must keep ringing in their minds that we must achieve that and there is no turning back,” he said.

The school had 71 candidates last year, with 15 scoring A-, 36 B+, 12 B plain, six B- and two C+.

The most remarkable performances were by Eliphas Kirugu, who joined the school with 274 in KCPE and scored an A minus, and Patrick Kiraithe who had 286 and got A minus.

Nyaga says he leads teachers by example, teaching Kiswahili and Geography with a total of 22 lessons per week.

“I do this to show other teachers that I am committed to lead by example,” he said.

Kinyua hailed the good partnership between parents, teachers and students that has enabled the school run smoothly and post commendable results.

He said most teachers arrive at school at 3am while students are required to be at the school field by 4:30am.

“They do exercises for 30 minutes up to 5am to get rid of sleep and keep their bodies fit. They then wash their faces and go to class where they solve five mathematic questions under the supervision of teachers on duty,” Kinyua said.

Kinyua said running of the school has not been easy as it has many students who come from humble families. “We do not chase them away for school fees as this would affect their performance… We urge well-wishers to chip in so that we may give bursaries to as many needy students as possible.”

The school normally allows parents to work for the school or bring livestock or commodities like beans and maize to pay school fees. “The commodities are then evaluated by the board of governors and converted into fees,” Kinyua said.

In some cases, students are allowed to sit their KCSE exams before clearing their fees but are later given work to offset the balance and get some pocket money.

Kinyua said the school admits students with marks as low as 150 but they leave the school with impressive results. “People must change the attitude that for students to perform they must be in big national schools like Starehe, and Alliance. So long as the teachers perform their duties well and complete the syllabus early and keep on motivating students from time to time, I don’t see any reason why they should not perform. I believe 60 per cent is from the teacher and 40 per cent from pupils and not the other way round,” Kinyua said.