Pioneer students faced great odds but set the bar very high

The first batch of Moi High School-Kabarak students pride themselves in having come up with the school motto. The motto, a great source of inspiration, has set high academic and moral standards in the school.

Eunice Toroitich (pictured), a pioneer student, recalls the weekend they scratched their heads to come up with a catchy motto that would be embraced by both students and teachers to no avail. Eventually they coined what everyone easily identified with: ‘On earth we rise’. Toroitich joined the school at Form Five in 1979. The school had only two iron sheet dormitories for boys and girls, one administration block, a dining hall, a laboratory and five classrooms.

“There was poor infrastructure coupled with a new education curriculum but these did not discourage us. We were determined to leave an indelible mark and so the motto lives on decades later,” she said. The school had 80 students then. Toroitich joined the school after sitting her Form Four examination at Kapropita Girls’ Secondary School which had better infrastructure than Kabarak. She scored division 2, a grade that was exemplary in the old curriculum. There was division 1, 2, 3 and 4. Division 1 was the highest.

She went to the school accompanied by her parents who pleaded with President Moi to allow her to study as they worked to get the fees. Luckily, her fees was subsidised and she would pay Sh1,200 annually instead of Sh2,000 by the other students. Ben Chepkoit joined the school a year later in 1980 for both his ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. Chepkoit, who holds two PhDs – one in Business Administration from Northcentral University in Arizona, USA, and another in Management Information Systems form Nova Southeastern University in Florida, US, says President Moi’s vision will forever live on in those who went through Kabarak. “Education is an equaliser. Kabarak symbolises that as we all met from different backgrounds, whether poor or rich, but were in pursuit of dreams to be better people in the future.”

Dr Chepkoit has, for the past 27 years, been working in Kenya and the US and is currently a professor in Maryland University College. He has also lectured in Liberty University, University of Phoenix and Bowie State University. He also has managed several organisations in the US and served as a director and managing director in several companies in Kenya, notable among them Standard Group PLC, Sovereign Group, Liaison Insurance, International Hotel and Tourism Institute, Transnational Bank and Kenya Aerotech Limited.

“If it were not for this school and the seriousness of the founding teachers, Kabarak would not be the towering giant it is today. I am proud to have gone through the institution and will forever be grateful to former President Moi,” he said. Dr Isaac Kipkoros was also among the fi rst students having joined Kabarak in 1980. “I was in the first intake of Form Ones in 1980. This is the time we were housed in mabati dormitories, which were very hot,” he said. He says the food was not as good until one day the President walked in by during meal time. He did not like the food, saying it had no nutritional value. “The principal, Mr Kimetto, was ordered by Moi: ‘kutoka leo watoto wakunywe uji ya wimbi.” Kipkoros, who is based in the US, has PhD in civil engineering. “Moi made learning interesting.

Some of us were from families that lived from hand to mouth. Giving us shoes and uniforms was a noble idea that brought equality,” he says. During weekends, the former President would invite all students to his home where they would interact with visitors from various parts of the country. The visitors would encourage them to work hard. “Imagine dinning with the who-is-who in the country and international leaders and you are just students. It was a nice experience,” recalls Toroitich.

Dr Dina Chengwony Mwinzi is a proud woman and attributes both her career and leadership skills to Kabarak. Mwinzi, the Vice Chancellor of KAG East University, went to Kabarak for her A-level studies between 1985 and 1986 after emerging the top student in Elgeyo Markwet District in Form Four national exam. In 1986, she was selected together with five other students to travel to UK on an exchange programme to understand the British education system. To her, this was an eye-opener as she got a rare opportunity to interact with students from across the world. “The school picked top performers in academics for the trip. I was very happy because it was not only my fi rst time to fl y, but also to see a plane,” she recalls.

The top students also toured Tanzania, thanks to the former President. Dr Mwinzi says their teachers were friendly and supportive and were determined to make them perform well in national examinations. “We had very lovely days in school. We could share with the teachers the challenges we were facing and they would find amicable solutions. This improved our esteem,” she says. Discipline was a virtue, and learners and teachers were selfdriven.

“Nobody used to push us to perform our roles. We came to school to study and that is where our energies were driven towards. Self-drive coupled with discipline is what enabled the fi rst batch of learners to excel. I am still a disciplined woman.” Mwinzi wrote her Form Six examination in 1986 and joined Kenyatta University for a Bachelor’s degree in Education between 1987. She later went to Moi University in 1991 for Masters studies.

In 1998, she got a job at Moi University. Because of her love for education, Dr Mwinzi enrolled for PhD in the same university and did her research in conjunction with Heidelberg University of Germany. She graduated in 2005. In 2007, she joined the Ministry of Youth and Sports as the director of youth training, a position she used to transform village polytechnics to youth polytechnics and later vocational training centres to sharpen skills of the youths through a competency curriculum.

The department was moved to the Education ministry in 2013 and Mwinzi was appointed the Principal Secretary for Technical and Vocational Training Authority. “I have grown through different ranks in education, growth I attribute to Moi High School Kabarak that gave me a better foundation to love and appreciate education,” she says. “Moi High School Kabarak shaped me morally, academically and spiritually. My leadership skills were also sharpened at the school and I’ll always remain grateful.”

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