Family of academic giants made in Kabarak

When Chepkoit took his son to Kabarak in 1980, the boy inspired his 7 brothers to follow suit. Today, his family consists of academic heavyweights, majority of them with multiple degree certificates.

As Moi High School-Kabarak marks 40 years, the academic journey of one family stands out.

The admission of Wilson Chepkoit’s son to the school in 1980 seemingly opened the way for other family members and between then and now 11 of them-eight brothers, two grandchildren and a daughter-in-law have gone through the institution.

“The choice was always Moi High School-Kabarak, after the older siblings set the example that inspired the younger ones,” says Mr Chepkoit’s son Alex Kiprotich, a journalist.

Dr Isaac Chepkoit, the second born in the family who lives in the US, was among the first batch of students to be enrolled in Form One in 1980, signalling the start of the family’s academic journey at the institution.

Later, the firstborn in the family, Dr Ben Chepkoit, who also works in the US, was also admitted to the school in Form Three.

The two, who sat for O and A levels in the school set the high standards for their siblings.

The two, were among the first batch of students to live in temporary dormitories constructed using iron sheets, an experience they treasure to date as they witnessed the institution taking baby steps.

“I was in the first intake of Form One in 1980. This is the time we were housed in mabati dormitories which were very hot,” recalls Isaac.

He recounts how they were forced to sleep without pyjamas due to the heat in the dormitories.

“Mr Gumo, a brother of former MP Fred Gumo and our Chemistry teacher used to walk around shouting ‘you are sleeping naked like snakes. No pyjamas,” he says.

And just like the baby steps of the school, the life journey of the Chepkoits’ from Salawa in Baringo County, has seen them rewrite their family’s story and fortunes.

“Ours is a story that spans decades. The quest to up the trend, make a name and be the best became possible because of Moi High School-Kabarak,” Kiprotich says.

Isaac has journeyed with the school and his story sounds unimaginable when one looks at the academic giant.

“I was in the first intake of Form One in 1980. Ben, our eldest brother was admitted the same year, two weeks later to Form Three. This is the time we were housed in mabati dormitories. The school has however grown to a gigantic pillar of academic excellence,” he says.

For the younger siblings, the school had already made leaps and bounds; it was in the limelight and was a preferred choice. Five other siblings, Chris, Zack, Naftali, Amos, Alex and Kimosop would later join the school and transit to university.

“The elder siblings who had gone through the school were uniquely  disciplined; they looked wise and had a way of handling things. We always saw them as geniuses and the fact that they had interacted with the President whom we only saw on TV was motivation enough to work hard so as not to break the tradition and stoop lower,” Kiprotich says.

Ben who holds two PhDs-one in  Business Administration from Northcentral University, AZ, USA and another in Management Information Systems from Nova Southeastern University in Florida, US, says if it were not for the school, they would most likely be still in the village.

“Kabarak to us as family means much more. It uplifted the family to where it is now from very humble beginnings to an academic household,” he says.

Ben has, for the past 27 years, been working in Kenya and US and is currently a professor in Maryland University College. He has also lectured in Liberty University, University of Phoenix and Bowie state University.

Forever grateful

He has managed several organisations in the US and served as a director and managing director in several companies in Kenya including Standard Group PLC, Sovereign Group, Liaison Insurance, International Hotel and Tourism Institute, Transnational Bank and Kenya Aerotech limited among others.

“If it were not for this school I cannot fathom where we would be as a family. I am proud to have gone through the institution together with my siblings and as family we will forever be grateful to the former President Moi,” he says.

He recalls that after their ‘O’ level Moi sponsored  Form Four students to tour Mombasa and gave each Sh400.

“That was a lot of money. I bought my first bell-bottom (pair of trousers) and brown ‘high’ heels shoes. I gave my dad Sh50. I have never had the same good feeling ever in my life,” he recalls.

Chris a Certified Public Accountant, who graduated from the school in 1986 also has a Master of Business Administration and has over the years served in senior positions including as a Financial Director at Standard Group PLC, Managing Director at Sovereign Group, Mumias Sugar and National Bank of Kenya.

For Chris, admiration of his older siblings landed him in the school.

“I admired Ben and Isaac after they joined MHS-K and I chose the school when I cleared Form Four at Tenges Boys. God granted my prayers and I was the only one from Tenges in Maths, Geography and Economics class,” he recalls.

Chris says he was surprised by the tradition at the school where students were given shoes, blankets, uniforms and bread for three days a week.

“I will never forget, when former President Moi joined us in class for a motivation session and even brought us mathematics exam papers from Starehe Boys. He sponsored our Form Six class in 1986 for a one-week trip to Tanzania where we visited several places including national parks and schools,” he says.

With a strict, disciplinarian father who was a primary school head teacher, the siblings’ say their journey of academic excellence, was not easy. It required hard work and no matter how difficult things were the senior Chepkoit ensured his children studied.

“The older siblings who had gone through the school were doing quite well after going to universities of their choices, to the younger siblings; the school had become synonymous to success. Our struggle to achieve always started way back in primary school where we aimed high in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations,” Kiprotich adds.

As per their tradition, Mwalimu, as he is fondly referred to, convened family academic meetings as soon as the school closed and before opening day, to demand better results that would take those in primary school to Kabarak and those in secondary school to university.

He reviewed the children’s performance and reprimanded those who failed.

“It was an experience you dreaded if you had posted poor results. The kind of grilling would leave one with only one option- working hard,” says Kimosop, a Bachelor of Science graduate, now an engineer with one of the telecommunication companies.

Kimosop, the youngest of the siblings, closed the chapter at Kabarak by emerging among the top 100 students in KCSE nationally in 2006.

And as the siblings transited to their dream school, the girls would join Kapropita Girls and the boys Moi High School-Kabarak.

Mwalimu never talked about the huge challenge of paying school fees—his emphasis was only good results.

Between 1987 and 1993 three siblings, Zack, Naftali and Amos were in high school but were never sent home for school fees.

“Being the senior-most brothers in school, others trusted me to keep the money. It was a great family bond. We always used to wait for President Moi’s gifts including shoes, bread, ground nuts and chewing gums,” Zack remembers.

Zack who has a Postgraduate Diploma and Masters degree is a teacher at Alliance Girls. His first born son Ian Kibarus is a candidate at Moi High School-Kabarak this year, walking in the same fields and being taught by some of the who also taught his father.

Interestingly Dr Zipora Chepkoit, who is married to Ben attended Kabarak between 1980 and 1983, the same time with her future husband.

Wilson ChepkoitMoi High School-KabarakWilson Chepkoit family