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Success or failure is a choice people make

By | March 15th 2012

By Okech Kendo

The party mood is fading two weeks after the release of 2011 KCSE results. Also easing is the moaning for schools and students that flopped.

While students of Garissa High School were protesting at the cancellation of their results due to alleged cheating, teenagers at Ngandu Girls High School were celebrating continuity of their tradition of excellence. And while in some schools parents, students and villagers were asking for transfers of head teachers, at Friends Kamusinga there was celebration of record good performance this millennium.

There are schools where mass failure is routine. There are also others where mass success is a tradition. In each case there is peer pressure.

excuse for deviance

But even where the majority performs dismally, there are individual students, who understand that to pass or fail an examination is a personal choice. Much in the same way one can take the moral highway or deviate into the alley of mischief.

It is all about choices.

The earlier children in primary and high schools know this the better for them and society.

Now this peer group pressure business: The power of peer pressure in shaping character has often been exaggerated. Sometimes the clichÈ is a sociological excuse for deviance. And peer pressure is more often cited in the negative. There is rarely mention in relation to mass success in national examinations, traditional success of some schools, or teams, especially where the will to excel is institutional culture.

The case of a relatively youthful Zambia soccer squad, Chipolopolo, beating giants like the Elephants of Ivory Coast, the Back Stars of Ghana, or Senegal’s Lions of Teranga from the African Cup of Nations Cap last month is a good example.

Inspired by the crash of a planeload of the Zambian team in 1993 in Libreville, Gabon, and returning there to play, gave the contingent a missionary zeal. They had to win in memory of their countrymen who died in the course of the cause.

Green Commandos’ of Kakamega High were always icons of secondary soccer in national competitions. Winning the game had to with peer pressure that pushed members of the Commandos to work for a shared goal.

Online repository Wikipedia defines peer pressure as influence a group of like-minded individuals exert in encouraging a person to change attitudes, values, or behaviour to conform to group norms.

Peer pressure is considered a top character shaper in schools. If one is involved with friends who are focused and working hard to succeed, one might feel pushed to excellence.

Peer pressure should also extend to head teachers through their national association, but it hasn’t. There are principals who cannot tell where the geography teacher has been. They do not have time to interrogate the physics teacher’s lesson plan, and do not care that the business studies teacher is always on trail of fleet of boda boda. But winners are principals, teachers and students who share the will to excel.


This column last week attracted passionate responses about teachers and their products. It means readers are concerned about schools, performance, and leadership.

Here are some: "I am impressed by your choice to highlight leadership in schools. Indeed the heroes and heroines are the principals of top schools. Ngandu Girls remains a high performer. Last year, Ngandu was the best county school in Central Province with a mean score of 10.01; 185 of 195 girls who sat KCSE attained mean university entry mark of B-minus. It is the best mean score ever achieved at the school since 1989 when the first KCSE examination was done."

"The heroines of Bishop Gatimu Ngandu are Jane Kiraguri the principal, and Joy Gitonga, the deputy principal. They are jewels in leadership and character formation for girls. There is a lot to learn from leaders of these schools." wrote Polycarp Igathe, a CEO in the private sector, and chair of BoG, Ngadu Girls.

"It was great reading your article about great schools. Of interest were Maseno School and its products. Much more than academics, the school prepares its alumni to claim their rightful positions in life. There was something about the culture and tradition of the school. Training in leadership and discipline that one gets from Maseno can only be got from Maseno.

The more reason I tell my son an ‘A’ grade from Maseno can never be equal with an ‘A’ from elsewhere. There are many other benefits and air the school imparts. I hope your article will inspire the boys to work harder as the school strives to reclaim its logical place" was the view of Benard Kodak of Maseno University.

lost in the crowd

"I read your article and it struck me you are a Maseno Old Boy. I am one also. I have always had attachment to the school. I’m from Kilifi County, Coast. I will always be indebted to Maseno. When the results come, I first see where Maseno is, and, thereafter, see how schools in my county have performed" was Tuva Kenga, Mombasa Polytechnic University College.

Another adds: "Your article was leaning towards Maseno School, Starehe, and the Alliance Schools. It was descriptive of the products of Maseno – they stand out from the crowd, are citizens of the world. They know what is expected of them; they rarely get lost in the crowd, and graduates are disciplined junior adults)."

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

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