By Agnes Orang’o

Mackenzie High School in Matungulu Sub-county of Machakos County, popularly known for taking in students dismissed from other schools, is now a force to reckon with.

The school, located in the outskirts of Nairobi just 4.5 kilometres from Tala town, was incepted in 2005 and has been home to many students who are on the path of recovery from various delinquencies to become useful people in society.

The school Director John Mackenzie, a former principal of four national schools, told Education News that they welcome such students with open arms and rehabilitate them until they change.

“We started with 28 students in Forms One and Two and was among the first private high schools in Kangundo. We are now at 150 students and hoping to grow,” said Mackenzie.

He narrated that it is not an easy task to change rogue students but through mentorship and counseling, they gradually ensure they take their place in the ever-changing world.

“Dealing with such students is not easy. We are very stern and strict with them because apart from their character, this school is not their choice but an option after being expelled,” the principal confessed.

“We mentor them accordingly by engaging both internal and external professionals to talk to them. To do this we have to be very patient and tolerant. We can say for sure our efforts have paid off,” he added.

He noted that in case of non-conformity, those who fail to change and are a continuous nuisance are expelled, although such instances are very rare.

John Mackenzie next to school plane used for the aviation technology subject. Photo Agnes Orang’o

The school attained a mean score of 4.2 in the 2021 KCSE exam, trouncing established performers in the sub-county.

“The journey to the top has just begun. We are targeting a mean of 7 this year in the KCSE exams as we have a good class which we believe will put us on the map,” projected Mackenzie.

Apart from extra tuition infrastructure, motivation and commitment, he attributed the promising results to the aviation technology subject offered in the school.

He said that the reason he introduced the subject was that many students wanted to become pilots in the future. The avenue was created to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed.

Besides, he was driven by the foresight that the education system was going to be restructured along skill-based disciplines as envisioned by the competency-based curriculum.

“If a student takes the subject from form one to form four and pursues the same in college, they will get extra credit because they are already equipped with the theory and some practical aspects of aviation. Believe it or not, there are form three students here who can fly an airplane,” said the retired principal with a smile.

He said they were the first school of its kind in Machakos, adding to seven others countrywide, including Mang’u as the pioneer.

“This plane you are seeing here cost us a whopping five million shillings,” he added, referring to an aircraft sitting peculiarly in a corner of the school compound.

He said the reception of the subject introduced a few years back was great as even reflected in the 2021mean score of 8.

Another motivation is the uniform, a sign of prestige as students wear their pride as much as their uniform resembles those of pilots.

Mackenzie, who is also the chairman of private schools in the sub-county, observed that the subject entailed important aspects like meteorology, geometry and firefighting, among other features.

He disclosed that the reason many schools do not offer the subject is that it is expensive to run.

“The teachers are expensive to hire and also the practical materials cost a lot. I spend over 300 thousand shillings on practicals, for example. However, I am glad because it’s the best performed subject and also the students are doing well,” he explained.

He disclosed plans to introduce a cabin crew course that will target post-secondary students.

Among his achievements include having several of his students become private pilots after continuing with the course in college. After the course, they can secure jobs as ground and air hostesses and cabin cleaners, among other jobs at the airport.

The challenges encountered include students who completely refuse to change and the high cost of running aviation technology courses.

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