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How little-known Westgate School is felling academic giants in Kiambu

By , People Daily Digital
Friday, April 16th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
Students at Westgate School. Photo: Courtesy

When Josephine Gathii started out as an untrained teacher in the early 90s, she already had a burning desire to one day provide a platform that would train the next generation of Kenyan innovators.

Knowing that she would need more than just dreams to actualise her ambitions, she enrolled at Kilimambogo Teachers’ Training College, now St Jones, and later in university for a Degree course.

With the training, Josephine decided she will not go to class again and together with her husband Peter, they to put together the little they had to start a school. That is how Westgate Shield Primary Day School was born.

“I had in mind what kind of staff I would want but it was not easy. We had structural problems like location and finances. We made the first lockers from our garage and we had to move door-to-door convincing people to let their kids join our school,” remembers Josephine.

She added: “What helped a great deal was that the students I had been teaching had good things to say about me and it earned the trust and belief of the parents given some of them we well-known to us.”

She would start with just 20 pupils but in three years, the numbers had swelled, necessitating an expansion.

As celebrations continue in various schools across the country following exemplary performances in the 2020 KCPE examinations, whose results were released by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha on Thursday, Westgate Group of Schools is among those in celebratory mood.

They are top again having recorded a mean score of 355.8 with their top student Cynthia Wanjugu scoring 416.

Top student Cynthia Wanjugu. Photo: Courtesy

English, Social Studies/CRE and Kiswahili recorded mean scores of 75.1, 72.3 and 71.4 in that order.

This means everyone passed the exams here and with the government insisting on 100 percent transition to secondary school, that will not be a problem for the students and parents of Westgate Group of Schools because all will be called to top schools.

But being top is not strange to this school, between 2010, when they first sat for KCPE, and 2020, they have managed the top three positions on eight occasions in Kabete Sub-county with most of their candidates joining national and county schools.

The 2020 performance was, therefore, somehow expected and were it not for the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic where students stayed away from school for over seven months, they believe the 2019 mean score of 370.1 would have been beaten.

“With Covid-19, it took long before the students interacted with teachers and even when we started online classes, they did not start together as some had travelled upcountry. Some subjects had new teachers since some did not report back after the coronavirus disruption so it really affected them,” says Josephine.

Nonetheless, it was still an impressive performance that will likely see them among the top Kabete again once the rankings are out.

So, what has been their secret to success? “Covering the syllabus early, reflecting on what we have done before and the fact that you can teach whatever subject as long as you have the knowledge. We also embrace teamwork, everyone knows their role and there is no difference between a cook and a head teacher. That respect means everyone works towards a common goal,” she says.

With the lessons learnt from the disruptions of 2020, the school is putting its best foot forward to ensure the results are better this year.

“We have started preparing our candidates early. We will check on what they had missed and the hindrances of last year and we want them closer to the teachers this time,” adds Josephine.

It is not just about passing exams at Westgate Group of Schools, teachers here are focused on developing generations of innovators and leaders who will shape future communities and become great ambassadors.

Located in Muthiga town in Kiambu county along the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway, one cannot fail to notice how deeply religious and patriotic the school is, going by the boldly written Ten Commandments on the walls plus the Kenyan flag.

“The school is based on Christian values and we teach our pupils to love God, love our country, honour parents, our history and respect our flag. With these values, you do not strain to discipline them,” she said.

Teaching here goes beyond academic work, other co-curricular activities such as drama, music and swimming are taken seriously to harness and nurture the talents available. French and computer classes are also incorporated.

“We teach them that there is no child who is foolish. You may not all get 400 marks but you can have other talents that you are good at,” says Josephine.

Westgate Group of Schools also make follow ups with their students who have graduated from secondary school and university to establish what kind of progress they are making in school and life, given these are their great ambassadors.

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