Mwingi town is not only a 24-hour business centre as part of Garissa Road where vehicles ply throughout, but it is also becoming a centre of academic excellence with more than 10 well- performing institutions
In the environs of Mwingi town off the Thika-Garissa highway stands what from afar looks like a housing estate in a quiet environment. The village denoted by beautiful trees rare in most arid and semi-arid lands.
A few metres off the road on the left reads a signpost, Mwingi Teachers College sandwiched between the gates of Broadway and Bygrace academies. At the entrance to the college stands ‘Academic village’ shopping centre.
The centre’s name depicts the activities that take place in the rural setting just outside Mwingi town. Other schools include Davies and East View academies, Mary Mount Girls and Masavi Technical Institute. A South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU) Mwingi campus is already earmarked to add life to the village.
“Before the facilities were built, the area was bare. No one thought it could once host award-winning institutions,’’ says educationist Julius Mutukaa, who first ventured in the area in 2001 by investing in schools.
By then, expansion of Mwingi town was slow and only few parents could take their children to the academy as they claimed it was far from the town. “The village academy is now a walking distance since the town has experienced fast growth over the years,” says Mutukaa.
He boasts of establishing the teachers’ college and four institutions — By Grace, East View, Mary Mount Girls and Masavi Technical Institute. Although Mwingi sub-county has the highest number of academies in lower Eastern region, there is more concentration of the institutes in the academic village and others in outskirts of Mwingi town. “This is due to centrality of the town and the busy highway,” says Mutakaa.
Campbell Munyambu, a businessman in Mwingi town and coordinator of Kitui professionals forum attributes the mushrooming private schools in Mwingi sub-county to business growth and centrality of the town.
Mwingi town businesses run 24 hours a day as apart from Thika-Garissa road where vehicles ply thoroughout, it is also connected by two other major roads of Mutito-Mwingi and Tseikuru/Kyuso road making the town an economic hub of Kitui North, hence boosting the education sector.
Mutati Mbwika, a primary school headteacher, says over the years, private academies in Mwingi region have recorded stunning performances in national examinations, which can be attributed to internal competition among the schools and parents’ commitment to educate their children.
“There is poverty here due to poor weather patterns but Mwingi parents give their last cent to see their children through private schools so as to get vacancies in good high schools,” he says.
Acording to Kitui County Director of Education, Adano Salesa, the harsh climatic conditions in Mwingi region do not deter schools from performing well in national examinations due to hard work by the teachers and support from the parents.
He cites Bygrace, East View and Kanginga academies, which have over the years produced some of the best candidates in Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams in the county. “The residents have adjusted to semi-arid conditions and learned to strive to give their children quality education,” he says.
For the second year running, schools in Mwingi sub-county did the county proud in the 2018 KCPE exam, with private schools recording top performances. About 80 per cent of pupils who scored over 400 marks were from private academies.
Pastor Robert Munyithya of Redeemed Gospel Church says parents contribute heavily towards education in Mwingi. “Managers of most academies have also embraced spiritual nourishment, which helps pupils to shine in national examinations.
These institutions have vibrant counselling sessions, making them different from public schools,” he says. “Whereas academies embrace communication between teachers and pupils, public schools waste a lot of time to dialogue with parents on minor issues,” says Munyithya.
Mutukaa says despite biting poverty in the households, 80 per cent of parents prefer taking their children to private schools, leading to expansion of academies. He quit teaching in 2002 having taught at Allan Mjomba Secondary School in Kilifi, Voi Boys, Muthale Girls and Migwan Boys.
He says hard work by teachers, parents and pupils is the yardstick for pupils’ excellence in national exams. “In schools where pupils post low grades, there is laxity on one party. There must be communication between teachers and pupils which we have embraced,” he says.
He commends Mwingi parents for investing in education of their children despite high-levels of poverty in the households caused by harsh climatic conditions. “Despite low incomes in the households, 80 per cent of parents here prefer taking their children to private schools. That is why there are many academies in the area,’’ he observes.
Mutakaa says county governments should also consider waiving or zero-rating single business permits to private schools to encourage them to continue offering quality education in the counties. He also urges the national government to improve access to education by paying fees to vulnerable children pursuing courses in private institutions.
“The President has created an enabling environment to provide partnership but this need to be improved through provision of materials, loans and grants to the private facilities which contributes immensely to education sector,’’ he says.