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Fesbeth, punching our way to the top

Ruth Minish, an ECDE teacher by profession has been the engine behind the success Fesbeth Academy

By Eileen Mulaa, Kakamega

Fesbeth Academy was started in memory of the parents of former long-serving Kakamega and Nanyuki School principal Oliver Minish.

Festo Minish and his wife Elizabeth both died in January and September 1999 respectively.

Festo was a primary school head teacher for 35 years and revered for love for education. He ensured that a good number of his children became teachers.

The name Fesbeth was coined from Festo and Elizabeth.

“In remembrance of our father with his good work he did in the education sector, we named the school after him,” said Ruth Minish, Fesbeth Academy director.

Humble beginning

The school opened its doors in 2002 at a family house that was located at Site and Service near Nabongo primary school at the heart of Kakamega Municipality.

It started as a daycare with three children for a whole term served with a teacher and a secretary.

The secretary doubled up as an accountant and a cook.

“The first utensils we used at the daycare belonged to my mother in law,” said Ms Minish

After three months of operation, they started experiencing some challenges that threatened the existence of the school.

According to the director, she wanted her teachers to be creative and innovative in the delivery of content but they would dismiss her.

They insisted that what Ms Minish was trying to introduce into the syllabus was alien to them since they had not been taught that in college.

“I decided to go to college and see what these people learn that I don’t know. I didn’t want them to challenge me. I enrolled at Marchris ECDE College,” said Ms Minish

It was a school based college located at Nabongo primary school. They used to learn during the holidays.

At the college, her fellow students were class eight and form four leavers, something that made her almost drop out.

“I went up to form six at Butere Girls and I was very knowledgeable. I scored 9 points (equivalent to B plain) in the Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE),” said Ms Minish adding that in form four, she got a strong second division.

The director said she missed going to the university by a whisker. “Am now mixed with class eight and form four leavers who understand nothing. I had to reduce myself to their level to be with them,”

She graduated after two years with a certificate in ECDE.

She was the best student in that college and by the time it closed its doors a few years later, no other student had broken her record.

Financial constraints

Back at Fesbeth Academy, the numbers were very high and to sustain the school, the husband, Oliver Minish, would use his salary to pay the teachers for around five consecutive years.

“When we started, parents didn’t have confidence in us. They were not paying tuition fees and paying teachers became a problem. That’s why my husband had to save the situation using his salary. They then transferred to already established schools,” said Ms Minish

She used to run a canteen at Kakamega School and the profit they used to make, they used it to buy food, stationery and furniture for the school.

“I used to plant vegetables at home and sell them to the teachers. The maize from our farm also came in hand in supporting the growth of the school. I used to wash and iron clothes for Kakamega School teachers just to make extra coins to also sustain the family,” said Ms Minish

Ironing a shirt and  a trouser was sh10 and sh15 respectively. She used to do the work with her children.

Fesbeth Academy Director Ruth Minish

In between, she would help parents enroll their children to local primary schools but in 2004, they compelled them to start a primary school so that they don’t take their children to another school. “We never thought of starting a primary school,”

They had to deal with another challenge of getting a piece of land to put up the school.

Fesbeth Academy

From where the ECDE was located, it was a purely residential area with limited space.

They approached one of their friends who agreed to sell them land, paid a small amount of money and the rest they agreed to clear it in instalments.

He also processed the land title deed for them. This is where the primary section is currently located.

“We put up two classrooms made of iron sheets after banks declined our many loan application requests. Banks can never finance an empty plot. It must have been developed,” said the director

Overcoming obstacles

In December 2004, the school account had a paltry sh48, 000 with 5,000 bricks at the compound that she had molded herself.

“With faith, we approached Mitra hardware and shared with him our challenge. We gave him the logbook of a ramshackle car we had as security. He gave us 120 bags of cement and iron sheets enough to roof two class in credit,” said Ms Minish

She said another lady supplied murrum, sand and hard-core to the school on credit with another bursar of a local school who had a welding workshop, supplying doors and windows also on credit.

In January 2005, they enrolled 18 pupils to class one.

When on parade, locals would pass by and mock them ‘ Sasa hii ni shule kweli’ (Is this really a school) owing to the low number of pupils.

Ms Minish said they were forced to close the ECDE and transfer all the 60 kids to the new premises just to create the perception they had the requisite numbers a school should have.

Numbers started increasing, cleared the debts they had and started realising some profits around   2006.

But come 2007, the numbers again nose-dived during the Post-Election Violence (PEV). Many parents moved out of Kakamega and went back to their rural homes.

Fesbeth High at Kakamega School

“The numbers dropped but started picking up around April 2008. I was seeing hope that the school would one day become an academic giant in the region and had to plan in advance,” she said

Bank loans

After the population of pupils grew, the director approached two local banks that advanced her with two separate loans of Sh4.5 million each that she used to buy their first bus and put up a story building that can house pupils from class one to class eight.

“I was always under pressure in servicing the loans. Every term, Sh0.6 million was needed to repay the loans. After paying, the school account would run dry. But I kept the faith knowing that the price of greatness is responsibility,” said Ms Minish

“The success of any manager is measured by his or her ability to manage the little resources under his

Watch, prudently”. To demonstrate this, the little money I got, I put it to use and today we can celebrate the results,” she added

First KCPE results

Fesbeth Academy presented her first pioneer class of 30 pupils for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations in 2012.

They posted a sterling performance recording a mean score of 378 and all of them transitioned to National and extra county schools (then provincial schools).

“Listening to Prof Sam Ongeri, then Education Minister releasing the 2012 KCPE results, there was tension in the staff room. Our competitors had written us off and didn’t expect anything good from us,” said the director

But at the mention of Natali Kayleigh’s name by the Education minister, there was spontaneous relief and jubilation.

Natali had scored 422 marks and was the top five best candidates nationally. She would later join Alliance Girls High School.

Breaking the jinx

Ms Minish says that the exemplary performance they posted in 2022 was their breakthrough and since then, they have never looked back.

“The only drop was in 2013 when we posted a mean score of 360. We are the undisputed academic giants in Western region,” said Mr Oliver Minish, also a director at the school.

Fesbeth Academy staff

According to Mr Oliver, a revered Physics teacher, they put a lot of emphasis in ECDE which he says is the foundation of the sterling performance they have been posting over the years.

Since 2018, Fesbeth Academy has been the top performing school in the larger western region.

In 2022 they had a mean score of 389.8 while   in 2021, they had a mean of 395.87.

In 2020, they posted a mean score 397 while in 2019, Fesbeth Academy had a mean score of 397.21 and in 2018; they posted a mean score of 400.65.

He attributed the success of the school to God and the good work from teachers led by the school head teacher, Mr Daniel Anyanga.

The new kid on the block is Fesbeth Junior Secondary located at the same premises with the primary section and Fesbeth High School that is situated at Handidi area along the Kakamega – Webuye road, just five kilometres from Kakamega town.

They have posted sterling performances in extra co-curricular activities and the current national champions in Solo Verse.




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