By Florence Gichoya
In the serene Mara plains, Nkoilalel Primary school stands out as a shining example of academic excellence. It is the best performing school in Mara Division, Narok County.
This is attributed to committed teaching staff and a local community that has tirelessly supported the school.
The institution was built in 1992 by Siana Spring Tented Camp when it set up two classrooms as an act of cooperate social responsibility. Prior to this, there were no schools in the area and many children missed out on required education.
At first, the school saw stagnation on pupils’ uptake. By 2008, Nkoilalel Primary School only had 283 students. This was partly attributed to semi-permanent and dilapidated classrooms that did not offer an appropriate learning environment.
Action Africa Help International organization (AAH)-Kenya partnered with the institution in 2009 to build new classrooms. A class that was built by AAH Kenya now serves as a staff room for 20 teaching staff. Previously, the teachers’ makeshift office was under a tree. With better learning facilities, the school’s population has steadily grown to 1,025 learners.
Out of the 48 primary schools in the Mara Division, the institution is the top performer. In the last five years the school has maintained a mean score average of over 300 marks out of 500 possible marks in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations. The good performance has contributed to an increased enrolment rate and the school infrastructure is now stretched, with some classes having more than 60 pupils.
Subsequently, the school started offering boarding facilities, out of a need to curb challenges causing high dropout rate.
The Maasai community is mainly pastoralist, and often migrates in search of greener pasture for their livestock. As a result of the seasonal movements, their children’s schooling was often disrupted. Still, the area’s population is sparsely populated and the children would walk long distances to attend school, some would cover up to 12 kilometres.
The head teacher Jacob Losikany indicates that the boarding facilities have borne fruit as now there are hardly any cases of school dropouts. The institution has also established three feeder schools within the community. The objective is to cater for young children who had to walk long distances.
“So far, 600 students are attending the feeder schools. These are children that would have otherwise missed out on education,” Losikany says.
The AAH Kenya and Nkoilalel Primary School partnership has paid off by empowering and transforming an entire community. At present, half of the classes in the school were built by the parents.
Also, female teachers in the school started a mentorship programme called ‘mothers and daughters.’ They sensitize female students on the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation and child marriages. The rescued children perform well and eventually progress to secondary schools and universities.
“The school now has many girls’ students who successfully transition to secondary schools,”
Loise Seela, a Standard One teacher says. The mentored girls later come back and offer mentorship to the pupils during their school holidays.
Nkoilalel Primary school also excels in co-curricular activities. In this year’s National Music Festival, the school was ranked the overall best in music folk song category.