KENYA…,Top teachers feted, reveal secrets to success in key subjects

This week there was jubilation in schools across the country as students, teachers and parents celebrated the success of top performers in last year’s KCSE exams. Unlike the past years, this time teachers were also ranked according to the performance of their schools in specific subjects.

It was jubilation, song and dance in 10 schools when Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi announced the names of top institutions by subject. The best 10 schools were Strathmore (English and Mathematics), Kapsabet Boys (Kiswahili), Wamy High (Biology) and Rang’ala Girls (Chemistry). Other best performers were St Anthony’s High School, Kitale (Physics), Nyangwa Boys (History and Government, Alliance Boys (Geography and Business Studies) and St Brigids, Kiminini (CRE). This week,

The Standard on Sunday talked to teachers who made those schools to be ranked top. Combined efforts by three teachers, among them the principal at St Brigid Girls in Trans Nzoia saw the school scoop the CRE trophy in last year’s KCSE exams.

It was another hat for Rosemary Wanaswa after the school was also listed among the top 20 in the country.Mrs Wanaswa was crowned the Principal of the Year, 2013, during a head teacher’s conference in Mombasa last year. With the support from her colleagues Gabriel Wataka and Pascalina Nabukwesi, the principal proved that making CRE a compulsory subject in the school was not a bad idea after all. “We had the desire to excel in all subjects, particularly CRE. We wanted to be at the top of others to prove why all students must do CRE,” said Wanaswa during the interview at the school. All the three teachers taught last year’s Form Four candidates CRE.

Apart from team spirit in the CRE Department, early syllabus coverage and continuous assessment tests boosted the school’s performance. Teamwork by students and strict evaluation also helped deliver the success. “The Catholic Church, our sponsor, made CRE compulsory and Bishop Maurice Crowley has been organising for in-service courses for us to acquire more skills in teaching the subject,” said Wanaswa.


Positive attitude based on previous performance boosted the morale of the students who had promised to excel. “Our past performance has attracted awards from the bishop and stakeholders and students know that they have to read in order to pass. We made sure they read,” said Wanaswa. At St Anthony’s in Kitale town, it emerged that change of attitude among students and provision of adequate revision materials contributed to the excellent performance in physics. The physics teacher Francis Soi pointed out that advocacy campaigns for students to change their negative attitude towards the subject and hard work earned the school position one in physics. “We worked hard to convince our students that the subject is not hard as they perceived. We exposed the students to many practical work and we managed to change their attitude,” said Mr Soi. He also added that motivation from the principal Cosmas Nabongolo through the provision of adequate equipment boosted the students performance. “The school was considerate. It purchased apparatus required despite the cost involved. This boosted morale among the students,” he explained. He added: “Some schools have to reduce the number of students sitting for science subjects such as physics due to the cost involved but this was not the case in our school.” The school had 178 candidates out of which 171 students scored A plain in physics, 5 scored A minus, one B+ and One B-. Soi also attributed the successin the subject on support from the department of sciences headed by Stephen Njoroge and other members of the team: Robert Tanoi, Bernard Ambani and Nahanson Wanyonyi. He pledged to maintain the same spirit to ensure the school remains the best in physics.

The school registered 178 candidates, 39 students scoring plain As, 106 with A-, 49 with B+ 30 with B and 8 B-and C+. Apart from emerging position one countrywide, Alliance High School also emerged top in two subjects-Business Studies and Geography. Two teachers, James Kinyanjui, 48 and Kenneth Juma Wanyonyi, 52 were credited with the feat. The two were still in a celebratory mood when The Standard on Sunday team caught up with them at the school. “When my wife heard that my subject had emerged top in my subject, she was very excited. She promised to make me the greatest meal that evening,” joked Mr Kinyanjui. Mr Wanyonyi too, thanked his wife, who also teaches the same subject at Uthiru High School for supporting him. It was the first time the school emerged top in Business Studies, with a mean score of 11.8. The two teachers have taught at Alliance for fourteen years. Wanyonyi has been teaching at the school since 2007 and Kinyanjui since 2008 and their combined experience saw the school ranked position one nationally.

The goal of any teacher is to be at the top. I’m not blowing my own trumpet, but it is a fact that I’m at the top of the nation,” he said. “Relatives and friends have been calling me from far and wide to congratulate me for the results. Everybody wants to be associated with success,” said Kinyanjui. Wanyonyi was equally proud: “It is a rare opportunity to bask in the limelight that our students have accorded us. Being the first time Alliance is topping in Business Studies, we feel a great sense of satisfaction. There is nothing as great as being at the top.” Just like their colleagues in schools in Trans Nzoia, they attributed success to teachers and students hardwork. They said completing the syllabus on time and encouraging students to work hard was key to success.“By January, we were through with the syllabus. We also laid great emphasis on the accounting principles that most students find difficult to master,” Kinyanjui revealed. The teachers said they are not going to sit on their laurels despite their achievements. “We know that our competitors have been challenged. But they should know that we are also not going to sleep,” Wanyonyi said. Coincidentally each of the teachers has a son at Alliance and both taught at Lushangonyi High School, Taita Taveta County, in the early years of their careers. “We have a good chemistry. It has contributed to the success of our students,” they said. At Strathmore, the English teacher used power point to teach his students.

Strathmore School reclaimed their positions as the kings of Mathematics and English when they emerged top in the 2013 KCSE examination. However, the success didn’t come easy, says the Principal, John Muthiora who is also the Form Four English teacher. Mr Muthiora who has taught English at Strathmore for the past 16 years says the profession is not about chalk and a guidebook. Teaching skills

He insists that there must be a connection between the teacher and the students. The principal also attributes the good performance to his teaching techniques. Being an English teacher, he said, needs more teaching skills than what is highlighted in the syllabus to improve the performance of students. “I knew standing in front of my students everyday and dictating to them what already was in their books won’t change their grades. “I had to adopt a new method of teaching,” he says

Before beginning the syllabus, he gives students the course outline, which not only gives them an idea of what they are supposed to cover but also narrows down what they are to research and study. “One big mistake that most teachers do is to tell their students to read everything because they end up reading an entire book, grasping so little out of it,” he said. Muthiora also adopted the use of computer technology to turn around his students’ performance. Speaking to The Standard on Sunday, he said he used power point presentations to teach. “The beauty about power point presentation is that it kept even the students who were bored awake and very attentive in class, “ says Muthiora. The subject’s mean score rose from 11.02 in 2012 to 14.62 last year. “My class also had weak students and some of them performed really bad in literature. So I would get the bright students in this area to help their weak colleagues in grasping the concepts that were difficult for them to understand,” said Muthiora. Being the principal doesn’t affect his job as an English teacher, because he always has time to go to class. “I have English lessons every morning from Monday to Thursday in Form Four classes and I don’t remember the last time I skipped one due to office work.”

Asked, whether he has any plans to maintain the top performance in English, he said: “It has been my dream to churn out best students in the subject and if repeating what I did this year would help me achieve that, then I will do it.” There is notable silence as The Standard on Sunday enters Wamy High School located in South B, Nairobi. But when the KCSE results were released on Monday, there was jubilation after the school was ranked the best school in Biology for the second year running nationally. Deputy principle Paul Ng’ang’a attributes the outstanding performance in biology to Zedekiah Agina- the school’s biology teacher. “Zedekiah Agina has always given it his all. He is experienced and to top it all has the will to bring out the best each year,” Ng’ang’a saysThe school attained Biology mean grade of 11.76 up from 11.45 in 2012. Out of the 80 pupils who sat for the biology paper last year, 67 scored A, Eight A- , four B+ and one B plain. Mr Agina attributed the good performance in the subject to his experience of more than 11 years. Behind the success in Chemistry at St Francis Girls High School, Rang’ala iin Siaya County is Rommel Odhiambo who heads the Science Department and works with eight teachers. “The reason for our success is that we work as a team and share every little time working on how to meet the goal,” he said.

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