NAIROBI - A student from western Kenya is the top performer in the country’s recent national primary school exams. Her success is made extraordinary because she is albino, a group that has experienced discrimination in Africa, particularly when it comes to access to education.
Almost one million primary school children took the 2017 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam, known as the KCPE.
Goldalyn Kakuya, a 14-year-old girl from St. Anne’s Junior School in Lubao, Kakamega, received top honors, with 455 marks out of 500.
“I was really happy about it. I am excited a lot because it has passed a message to so many people. So what thrills me most is that it has opened the eyes of many people,” she said.
Goldalyn’s success "opened the eyes" of many people because she has albinism, a genetic condition that results in the skin, hair, or eyes lacking color. People with albinism often face discrimination in Africa, and children struggle with educational opportunities.
"People have talent, and given the opportunity, they can do so," said Kenyan senator Isaac Mwaura, chairman of the Albinism Society of Kenya. "So I would want to really say that young children with albinism across Africa and indeed the world, because there is a lot of persecution and discrimination that is geared toward people with albinism, that they feel encouraged, that they too can reach at the top. And that families should also embrace people with albinism and also, the society at large.”
Goldalyn’s mother, Matilda Cherono Tanga agrees that discrimination against people with albinism is common.
“And because of that attitude, people will not even imagine that these children have a perfect brain," she said. "They think they cannot learn, they cannot compete, but the performance and the achievement of Goldalyn, has proved to the society that albinism is just a condition of the skin.”
Goldalyn told VOA she worked hard for her success, reviewing her many revision books, asking teachers questions in class, rarely missing her lessons, and doing quite a bit of personal study and group work.
She offers these tips to other students.
“Pray hard, do your best, believe in your yourself, because if you are praying, and you are working toward your goal, what can deter you from that? So it is just a matter of being confident, yes,” she said.
All students who received 400 marks or more will be given admittance into the coveted national secondary schools. This year, roughly 10,000 students reached this threshold.