Tale of remote school that went against grain to dominate global stage

Keriko Secondary School Head Teacher Daniel Mwariri at the school on March 25, 2019. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

The sun burns with a hellish fervour as winds frantically whirl up the dust from the bare ground at Keriko Day Secondary School in Njoro.

Exams are on. School bags hang delicately on the flowers outside the already full classrooms.

Some desks have been removed outside the classrooms to provide space during exams.

Here, the heat and classroom congestion cannot contain the excitement welling up.

The dimply smiles from students on a break tell it all; even the blinding dust cannot dim them, in fact, it spices up the already excitable mood.

Peter Tabichi, commonly known as Brother Tabichi, a physics and mathematics teacher has placed the school on the global map by bagging the Global Teacher Award that comes with a Sh100 million bounty.

One computer

The school, located 13 kilometres from the nearest tarmac road, perhaps symbolises the truism behind the mantra ‘it does not matter where one comes from, one can achieve their wildest dreams’.

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The school, to date, has one computer to its name. It has no library; no water connection; it has congested classrooms, and a single science club.

“The win is a dedication to teachers working in all ill-equipped schools across the world, it is a win for all,” Daniel Muchiri, the school’s Board of Management Chairman, said.

The school, despite coming up fast among emerging giants in the region, has a myriad of challenges that have seen both students and teachers grow to be resilient.

Perhaps it is the unimaginable bit of buying water to wash laboratory apparatus after using them, or having a library under the same trees that also serves as the dining hall, that defines what true resilience is.

The luxury of a well-built dining hall, library or enough teachers is a mirage. The school has only seven teachers employed by the Teachers Service Commission.

Buying water

It needs 12 more teachers. Sometimes parents have to chip in to employ teachers in order to boost the few numbers in the staff room.

“It is a struggle. Buying water every day is not easy because the students have to eat, and practical lessons have to go on,” said  Daniel Mwariri, the school headteacher.

Last year, when The Standard ran a story on how ill-equipped schools are beating bigger ones in the National Science Fair, the story saw Keriko allocated CDF money to construct an administration block, and an extra classroom.

“The current population of students is 475. There are only eight classrooms, which translates to between 46 and 73 students in a single class depending on the form they are in,” Mr Mwariri said.

Mwariri noted that as much as the students have been performing well in science and mathematics projects in the region, they are yet to travel out and represent the country due to lack of  funds.

“In 2017, two students qualified for the prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering fair, but they could not proceed because the school could not raise funds for their air ticket,” Mwariri said.

“This year too, chances are very slim because they are yet to even get visas and passports besides raising funds for air tickets.”

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Keriko Secondary School Head Teacher Daniel MwaririThe StandardGlobal Teacher AwardBrother TabichiPeter Tabichi