[Photo: Courtesy]

As the Ministry of Education released this year’s primary school national examinations results, two hidden factors, which somehow, influence performance, did not feature: iodine and witchcraft.

The Ministry of Education perennially blames wanting performance on political and socio-economic factors ranging from Sheng to noisy bars near schools.

Yet, scientific research has shown that lack of iodine as a dietary mineral has spectacular ways of producing idiots as British philosopher Sir Bertrand Russell noted as far back as 1967 in his book, Why I am Not a Christian.

Iodine is crucial in the production or thyroid hormones which are vital for brain development.

Studies conducted in China and published in the 2005 issue of Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, confirmed that consumption of iodine rich foods positively impacted on the intellectual development of children and The New York Times noted in 2006 that “iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation” besides causing goitre and cretinism.

In America, economists James Freyer, David Weil and Dimitra Politi used military data to compare standardised IQ tests of two million recruits enlisted during World War II.

Their findings, published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, revealed that recruits from iodine rich regions went to the Air Force while those from low-iodine and thus ‘Goitre Belt’ areas were condemned to the Ground Forces!

Foods rich in iodine include mayaiboiro, raw milk, fish, spinach, peanuts, bananas, pineapples, green beans, white bread, yoghurt and iodized salt (fortified table salt).

Samburu, despite having no candidates in the top 100 during the 2013 KCSE examinations was ranked Kenya’s best performing county. Milk forms an integral part of diet there.

Kenya’s ‘Goitre Belts’ by 1996 were in the Rift Valley, Central Nyanza and Western Kenya according to Introduction to Medical Geology, published in 2009.

The other iodine deficient areas include the highlands of Central Kenya, where St Marks High School pulled the tail countrywide in 2010. Out of 76 students, 39 scored a clean E each. The brainbox of the cohort scored a D+!

Poor school grades also have a connection with belief in the dark arts. Regions where witchcraft is rampant like Eastern Kenya, parts of Luo Nyanza and the coast, are not only economically backward, but also perform dismally in national exams.

Kenya’s second worst performing school in 2010 was Kyulu Secondary, Eastern Kenya. The best student in a class of 25 had a D, although the connection with the dark arts was not apparent.

During the 2016 KCSE results, not a single candidate scored an A in the other witchcraft prone coastal counties of Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Lamu and Tana River although the connection with the dark arts was also not apparent.

But in her 2002 research thesis at the University of Nairobi “on effects of witchcraft on secondary school education in Mwingi district” in Eastern Kenya, Stellar Nyenze singled out white witchcraft, black witchcraft, majini, and devil worship as the major types practiced with conclusions that “witchcraft practices caused school dropout, indiscipline, poor concentration in class hence poor performance and sicknesses.”

American Professor Boris Gershman also studied witchcraft beliefs in 19 sub-Saharan countries and in findings published in the 2016 Journal of Development Economics, revealed that witchcraft-prone areas were economically retarded due to erosion of ‘social capital’ like trust, co-operative networks, joint projects and social interaction. Besides limiting one’s world view, witchcraft also affected other metrics including education as fear of curse spells for being academically smart, led to poor grades.

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