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Secrets of Meru county’s top public primary school

Institution’s mean KCPE score has always been above 400 marks for several years except 2016 when it dropped to 398 due to a lower than expected performance in sciences

Whenever residents of Meru and Tharaka-Nithi counties hear the word kathigiri, many will only think of a small insect from the ant family. The small black garden or sugar ant is quite active and is usually found on dump soil and on vegetation.

The insect’s name has turned out to be an academic giant of unshakable fame in Meru County for the last 16 years, producing top pupils and taking top 10 positions in Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) nationwide.

Humble beginning

Kathigiri Public Boarding School is located about 4km from the Meru¬-Nairobi highway in the interior of Igoji East Ward in Imenti South sub-county, Meru county.

The rough road leading to the renowned Centre of Excellence is often pathetic and becomes impassable especially during rainy seasons.  Despite such challenges, many people in Meru and across the country keep trooping to the school looking for vacancies for their children. There is an assurance here of performing well at the end of their primary education.

Behind this big name is the head teacher Eustace Micheni. He vows that if ever the school’s high academic standards drop after he retires next year, that will just send him to an early grave because the school has become his second family. These were his welcoming words as we settled for an exclusive interview in his office.

He attributed the tremendous success to able teaching staff that work full time to maintain the school’s top performance each year. Micheni graduated from Kagumo Teachers College with P1 certificate in 1982.

His first posting was at Kinooro Primary School (Igonji) where he taught Mathematics. He was later transferred to a top-performing school of those days, Kithinge Primary School in Tharaka Nithi county due to his outstanding performance in teaching Mathematics.

Top 10 nationally

Micheni worked for eight years at this school before the father of four was promoted. He was appointed as a Teacher Advisory Centre (TAC) tutor in Igoji Zone where he served for four years, boosting the zone to lead in performance in the then larger Meru county.

In 2000, Education officials asked him to go back to class to revive a poorly performing public school, Kathigiri. Here he met an enrollment of only 64 pupils from Class Four to Class Eight. “The number has since increased to 350,” he says.

Kathigiri’s mean score in KCPE has always been above 400 except in 2016 when it dropped to 398. “This was as a result of poor performance in science subjects. Otherwise, the school has kept producing top pupils in Meru county and we have ranked top ten countrywide since I took over,” says Micheni.

Challenges

Humble and always smiling, the tutor is also a farmer who reads storybooks during his free time. He attributes his success to hardworking teachers, relevant teaching practices and constant revision. “Teamwork, early syllabus coverage, intensive revision, remedial teaching and motivation of learners and teachers stimulates success,” he says.

The only challenge the school faces, which they are addressing, is lack of a playing ground for the pupils, which make them, lag behind others in extra curriculum activities.

A Kathigiri, a teacher must enter a class well prepared to present well-researched work or else the pupils will embarrass the teacher.  “Some pupils are bright enough to even challenge the teachers in class. Girls here are now performing better than boys,” adds Micheni.

In 2017, the school produced the best girl in Meru county and the second best countrywide, Sharon Murega, now a student at Alliance Girls and. In  2016, Lennox Kimathi of Alliance Boys was second best pupil in the country while in 2014, Riziki Mpekethu, now a medical student, led in the county. “Surprisingly, all these top students come from Tigania Sub-county of Meru County. I suspect it because they are exposed to hardships early but they are also naturally bright,” he added.

Each year, the lowest performing pupil at this school always scores above 350 marks in KCPE, with the majority scoring above 400 marks. Last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta awarded Micheni with the Order of Grand Warrior.

This year’s KCPE results have reaffirmed Kathigiri’s academic dominance. The institution took position six countrywide, having produced a top pupil in Meru county Debra Gakii  (442 marks) and beating all schools including their closest rivals in the region, Fred’s Academy. Out of 80 candidates, 54 pupils scored 400 marks and above while only 16 students scored 350 to 399 marks.

“I am happy to retire as a legend. I hope the institution will in the near future become the best in the country if only the ministry of Education picks my successor carefully. I wish to ask them to promote one of the teachers here who knows our winning systems well,” he concludes.

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