I am a backed by the recent outcome or results when the 2014 KCSE was announced, there was jubilation, songs, pomp and color in some parts of the country including and not limited to the disenfranchised Mandera County.
Since the literal beginning of the 8-4-4 system and the polarizing KCSE exam, not a single student in Mandera had managed to attain the much coveted ‘A’ grade that most of us shed sweat, blood and tears to find in that brief four year period. Not a single student, that is, until Ibrahim Abdi Ali.
The unassuming second born of thirteen siblings has helped switch the recent narrative of Mandera as a dry, barren land best known for inter-clan clashes by beating the odds and gracing the headlines in his rightful place among the best of the best.
Coming at a time when many teachers posted to the area have declined to resume their duties in Mandera due to security concerns, young Ibrahim’s success is proof positive that those teachers who have not abandoned the area do not work in vain: there is potential to be tapped and talent to nurture.
While this success should please and inspire us all as a country, it holds a special pride of place for me on a personal level. Ibrahim’s little known school, Sheikh Ali High School, happens to be the very school I myself attended.
Having grown from humble beginnings, the school was founded and mentored by the late great Siid Abbas. My memories of the school remain intact to date: I still remember the fading newspaper in the Principal’s office that read “Sheikh Shines!”, a headline from the late 80s or early 90s that kept past glory alive. I was there one fateful night, well past midnight, to witness a headmaster and his family brutally massacred on the same grounds, an unfortunate addition to the perception of Mandera as a hotbed of violence. I recall a famous store keeper, now deceased, that was so well loved the school renamed a dormitory “Dido”, after him.
The little known school that holds so many nostalgic memories for me has produced some of the best minds in the region across generations, to today’s beacon of scholarly achievement, Ibrahim Abdi Ali. For those that attended the same institution but didn’t achieve such staggering academic success, fear not, tomorrow is another day.
Recently teachers from the region refused to go back to teach for fear of their dear lives, talking of which, brings us the logistics aspect to the matter. Poor road networks and lack of enough security poses the teachers to danger from enemies in the shape of Al shabaab. For many years the region had been ignored by different regimes.
Lastly but not the least, there’s no way one can talk of Sheikh Ali High School without the mention of one name, that’s the iron lady ‘Shankarai’, she use to cook delicious Chapati outside the school compound in her kiosk for many years. Who knows her whereabouts?