Nairobi News


Kenyan student rejected by several schools for low KCPE marks shines in the UK

Lelaibei Primary in Olenguruone is your ordinary rural school with no piped water, electricity or computers.

Out of this school came the 2018 Oxford University’s rare stars.

In short, Ms Gladys Chepkirui Ngetich, 27, is in the list of the top 10 rising stars in the UK.

Despite the challenges she faced while growing up in a family of nine, Ms Chepkirui is one of the top PhD scholars in aerospace engineering science globally.

She grew up in the tiny village of Amalo and scored 298 marks in her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination.

“Our classrooms had earthen floors. Most did not have window panes,” she said.

Her mother moved from school to school seeking her admission.

“Luckily, I joined Mercy Girls’ Secondary School in Kericho,” she said.


She emerged the top student in KCSE exams in Kipkelion district in 2008 and later joined Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology to pursue a mechanical engineering course.

In 2013, she was awarded the Babaroa Excellence Award for emerging the best student in her class.

Ms Chepkirui secured a Rhodes Trust scholarship for her PhD in engineering at Oxford in 2015 where she has combined her academic performance and leadership skills to earn recognition.

In 2016, she was awarded the Tanenbaum Fellowship – an annual competitive fellowship awarded to Rhodes scholars for a multifaceted program in Israel. She was named the 2018 Skoll World Forum Fellow.

She recently received a patent in collaboration with the Rolls Royce PLC. Gladys’ research work has been featured in top articles that have been distributed across the UK including BBC Science, the Oxford Science Blog and Medium.

Early this year, she was awarded the prestigious ASME IGTI Young Engineer Turbo Expo Participation Award; awarded to young engineers to present a paper they have authored at the annual American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) conference.


Outside her research Gladys tutors engineering undergraduate students at Oriel College.

To inspire girls and women, she co-founded the ILUU Organisation headquartered in Nairobi and was shortlisted for the McKinsey & Company Next Generation of Women Leaders Award.

“I want young girls to know that there is no limit to your potential. I scored dismally, was rejected by some schools, became a laughing stock in school for my deep Kalenjin accent, but I still became the top even in the languages I had failed in. This tells you that if you believe in yourself, nothing can stop you,” the 27 year old says.

The Oxford University profiled her; “She is on the path to becoming a leading pioneer in Aerospace Engineering.

She has shattered the stereotypes forced upon her and is now an accomplished STEM ambassador seeking to inspire the next generation of female engineers,”

“I hope my academic journey resonates with someone. Keep going, give your all (even if your all gives you 298/500 marks!), keep stretching beyond the comfort zone, keep dreaming because no one knows what the future holds. And how I wish more schools would do the unusual and often look beyond the grades in transcripts especially during admission,” Gladys says.