By Phares Mutembei
The dust raised by the trailblazing Maasai Girls’ High School is yet to settle. The school’s candidates in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education topped the country in mathematics, a subject perceived as difficult for girls.
Fifteen out of the 22 who registered for the national examinations got straight As, with B minus being the lowest mark.
Students at the school located in Ngong, Kajiado, show confidence when they talk about calculus, algebra and other concepts.
"Girls should not think passing maths is beyond their reach. I used to perform poorly — even getting 20 per cent — until I changed my attitude. Now a B is the worst grade I can post," says 15-year-old Caroline Musyoki, a bright Form Four student who has skipped two classes.
Anne Gitau, 17, says there is nothing to fear about maths.
"Math is as easy as ABC if you believe in yourself. I am good at the subject because I practise and work with other students to solve maths problems," says the Form Three student.
Janet Muya, 17 and in Form Four, agrees discussion groups are key to success.
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"Group members consult each other when working out a problem. It is fun and you are more likely to get the answer right," she says.
Their teacher, Benjamin Kimuyu, is proud of his students’ performance.
"For starters, a student should have a positive attitude towards maths. Then they should practise a lot and discuss with the teacher and they will find maths is easy," he says.
That formula worked well for Caroline Kimani and Sheila Chepkemei. The students from Moi Forces Academy, Lanet last month debunked the myth that girls cannot outperform boys when they emerged position one overall in Form Three and Two respectively in the Annual National Mathematics Contest organised by Naivasha Girls’ Secondary School.
Over 50 schools contested.
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"To win, you need to develop a positive attitude in the subject, practise regularly and consult the teachers widely," says Caroline.
Sheila says: "I have succeeded in maths because I am focused, practise a lot and I work smart."
The event organiser, James Gakure, says girls need to appreciate maths is a subject like any other and stop entertaining the idea that they cannot do well in it.
— Additional reporting by Peter Kamuri.