For the second year running, Nairobi’s Pangani Girls’ High School produced the top student in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination.
In 2017, Pangani Girls’ student Naomi Karimi emerged top in the country with a mean score of 87.011 ahead of Moi Girls Eldoret’s Sharon Chepchumba who scored 86.83. And last year, the school repeated the feat. Its candidate Juliet Irene Otieno with a mean grade ‘A’ of 87.644 points, topped the country!
As teachers, parents and students basked in the glory of that performance, two questions stood out: What is the secret to the remarkable performance for the city school? Who is at the helm of the team?
The answer on the leadership began to emerge as the attention turned to one of those celebrating the success, the principal, Florence Ngarari, who had joined the parents, students, and the general public to celebrate the feat.
Besides Karimi’s conquest in the 2017, Pangani under the stewardship of Ngarari, was voted the most improved school in that year’s KCSE exam. And how did Ngarari manage to turn the fortunes of the school? Perhaps, to understand the magic behind the success, it important to have a glimpse into her past.
In 2015, before being transferred to Pangani, Kahuhia Girls High School in Murang’a county under her stewardship had produced the best student— Ivy Mwangi—in the country. Her legacy on the exemplary performance still lives on at Kahuhia, which in 2018 was listed as one of the top performing girls’ schools in the country. It outshone its perennial rival, Mugoiri Girls, a national school, after posting a mean score of 7.947. Mugori Girls had a mean score of 7.007.
Stickler for discipline
But Ngarari’s winning formula? She is a stickler for discipline, hard work and engages in open conversations with teachers and students to ensure focus and dedication to school programmes, academic and co-curricular activities.
“We strike a rapport with teachers and students and the results are there for all to see. I have inculcated virtues like discipline at Pangani just like in my previous schools. I’m glad that we are heading somewhere as a school. We would not have achieved such breakthrough without the dedication of teachers and students and I must give them plaudits for that,” says the collected principal.
She says hard work, discipline and fear of God are critical to success, adding that once the students and teachers understand that, they will scale the ladder of success. Ngarari says she was happy with the results but quick to add that there is huge room for improvement.
“We got a number of A’s as well as B+’s at Pangani which assures students of university slots. This is evidence that the teachers are doing a commendable job and I would like both parties to keep this candle aglow. It is not easy to produce the best student in the country and what I can say is, we are not ready to put our feet off the gas pedal,” says Ngarari.
Shauri Moyo OCS Alice Chemutai, whose daughter Talyian Cecily Cheptoo, a Pangani Girls candidate, scored B+ hailed Ngarari for a job well done and especially instilling the morals into students. And what does the best student Juliet Otieno has to say?
“Obviously, there was immense pressure from the school community for me to excel and I’m happy I did not disappoint. I thank God for not letting down those who believed in me,” she said, adding: “Naomi set the pace.” Juliet aspires to be an aeronautical engineer.