Success is sweet when the celebrants are not the real achievers. Such is the way it has been with schools that have traditionally posted superlative results. Success of the class ahead inspires the next. The chain is sustained in the name of our school - our future, our heritage.

When fourth formers celebrate the performance of the candidates ahead of them, they set targets for themselves, and their schools.

Last year, Starehe Boys were sulking because they had slipped out of top ten in 2010 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results. Last week 2012 candidates and others were celebrating because the 2011 Starehe class had reclaimed the school’s space among the best.

The students had promised to rise after falling. Geoffrey Griffith, the founder of the Starehe tradition of excellence, should be happy because the legacy was not buried with him in 2005.

Proud legacy

So did other schools that know the challenge is not in the falling, but failing to rise up.

Asumbi Girls High School that once ranked alongside Ngandu Girls is back, and saying if Maranda can displace Alliance, there is nothing to stop them from eyeing Precious Blood Riruta’s place.

Asumbi and Precious Blood Riruta share a Catholic tradition, with an old girl as principal of the new national school in Homa Bay County.

Maranda High School’s national lead in Kiswahili, and number four slot in 2010 exams were thought to be miracles. By taking number one in KCSE 2011, Maranda has proved leadership makes the difference.

St Joseph’s Rapogi High School did as much, with a promise to better its stake in the coming years.

The Alliance siblings were number two nationally for the boys and three for the girls. Alliance Boys slipped one position, but maintained the touch of excellence. Alliance Girls High School gained two positions to the top.

Located a few kilometres west of Nairobi, the two Alliances share a tradition of healthy competition.

And the Maseno School has shown a huge capacity to rebound as it promised last year, with 97 per cent improvement on 2010 aggregate mean score per student. The school moved 20 positions towards the top-ten range in the KCSE 2011 where it belongs.

Even with a huge enrolment that lowers the mean, Maseno has no by-products. All its candidates often attain university entry points. They graduate as disciplined junior adults, who are strong to serve, echoing the founders’ mission.

Founded in 1906, Maseno was intended to train citizens of the world who would serve in the African continent and the Commonwealth. The school has not disappointed, counting the late Prof Thomas Odhiambo, founder of the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology, and pioneer scholar Prof Daudi Wasawo among its rich directory of alumni.

With a proud legacy of more than a century, immortalised in the Anglican Church of Kenya chapel, named the Rock of Ages, the Maseno School students know what is expected of them. They rarely get lost in the crowd.

And Lenana School (the former Duke of York) is also on a rebound, like Maseno, the Alliances, and Mangu High School, to the top where tradition places them.

And St Patrick’s Iten is back to the citation range. Iten was once known for elite volleyball, but went into academic slumber. Thanks to Dr Chris Kiptoo, the chairman of the board, teachers, the principal, and students have shown what shared will can achieve. Homa Bay High School is also on the way back, having claimed most improved credit in 2010.

Unsung heroes

Now something about leadership: David Kariuki of Alliance High School, Dorothy Kamwilu of Alliance Girls, Boaz Owiti of Maranda, Peter Warui of Lenana, Paul Otula of Maseno, Henry Raichenya of Mangu, Thomas Ogola of Rapogi, and Sister Josephine Apiyo of Asumbi Girls High School, and others, have shown the quality of the fruits of their labour.

These are the unsung heroes and heroines. Yet our President finds it nearly all the time to celebrate politicians, even for no apparent reason. Politicians often get national awards mostly because the person who appoints them carries the knife and the pumpkin.

Ms Kamwilu of Alliance Girls High School stands out for understanding leadership must be tempered with compassion. Much in the same way as does the PS for Education Prof James ole Kiyiapi. The man who counts Alliance Boys as his alma mater has a passion for his job.

Waiting list

Let me explain credit for Kamwilu: A girl, age 13, woke up at 4am for the six years before the 2011 exams. She wanted to make Alliance or Kenya Girls High School grade.

With 420 points in 2011 KCPE, she was admitted to a school on the Thika-side of Kiambu County. She reported to the school she did not know. During visiting day, the little scholar told her parents this was not her dream school.

She insisted on returning home with her parents. She did in tears.

I asked a friend to tell the girl’s parents to share this experience with the principal of Alliance Girls High School. When they did, Ms Kamwilu admitted the girl, who was on the waiting list.

This young Kenyan would be a person to watch when the 2015 KCSE results are released.

And, by the way, who took away the keys to the once-famed Shimo La Tewa High School, at the Coast, Cardinal Otunga in Nyanza, Garbatula High School in northern Kenya, and State House Girls in Nairobi?

Writer is The Standard’s Managing Editor Quality and Production.

schools; KCSE; starehe