A Village Girl Who Made it to Oxford University: An Inspiring Story

Prof. Ngumi (left) welcomes Ms. Ngetich during her visit

Most people imagine that everything could have been different for them if only they had turned right one day when they chose to go left. They can only envision living a life they could not have anticipated.  But other times people think there is no way forward and that they are bound to end up exactly where they were.

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, but of choice. Not something to wish for, but to attain,” is a famous quote by William Jennings Bryan, which has been constantly proven to be right with icons such as Barrack Obama rising from a little known Kogello village in Kisumu to becoming the president of the United States of America, and now Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) alumna, Gladys Chepkurui Ngetich, who scored 298 out of 500 marks in KCPE at Lelaibei Primary School. A story of hard work, resilience and dedication has earned her a place in the prestigious Universities of Oxford, Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Having recently completed her PhD in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Oxford, Ms. Ngetich paid a courtesy call on the JKUAT, Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi Tuesday, September 17, 2019 to share her journey and express her gratitude to JKUAT for what she said was the pedestal to her success.

Prof. Ngumi engages Ms. Ngetich on her triumphs

“When I first got to Oxford University, I didn’t have the confidence that I would compete with the crop of students there. In Aerospace Engineering, I was the only person from Africa let alone being a woman among the only five, the other four being white,” recalled Ms. Ngetich

Ms. Ngetich stated that she surprised everyone including herself from the level of knowledge she had attained from JKUAT and no one easily believed she was from a Kenyan University. This she attributed to the hands-on training of the JKUAT engineering Curriculum.

“Most people have the mentality that Kenyan Universities cannot compete with the globally renowned universities such as Oxford University. The truth is that I was very active in class because I realized I had learnt most of the content from JKUAT. She added that many students and staff members were in awe because the engineering knowledge and grasp she possessed.

True to her word, during the courtesy call Prof. Ngumi confirmed that the Oxford University Chair of the Academic Council, Professor Sir Keith Burnett FRS had telephoned her and indicated how enthusiastic he was to know more about JKUAT pedagogy.

Her Secret?

Gladys with Eric and Wendy Schmidt during the Fellowship announcement in New York, USA

Ms. Ngetich has seen her academic star continue to rise from scoring 298 out of 500 marks in KCPE in Lelaibei Primary School to joining Mercy Girls High School and scoring grade A- in KCSE. She then joined JKUAT and pursued Mechanical Engineering where she attained a First Class Honors in 2014.

Apart from her academic prowess, Ms. Ngetich attributed her growth to other key co- curricular activities she acquired from JKUAT.

Ms. Ngetich was also a reputable class representative at JKUAT. She is described by her lecturers as an enigmatic student with the zeal to always learn. She was also a popular figure in sports where she bagged eight medals under her name while representing the University in the East Africa University, and Kenya University Student Association games.

“Students should never take for granted the simple responsibilities that are handed to them by the University like class representatives and games. During my scholarship application to Oxford, those who vetted me were only interested leadership, sports and other  talents,  and my exploits came in handy,” said Ms. Ngetich.

Her Future?

“I have been offered another scholarship under the prestigious Schmidt Science Fellow Award to pursue my post-doctoral studies at Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),” she revealed.

She said her immediate plans are to mentor and motivate students from JKUAT and her village, especially those who are performing poorly. She wouldn’t want them to give up.

From left: Dr. Muvengei, Prof. Kinyua, Ms. Ngetich, Prof. Ngumi and Dr. Nderitu

Ms. Ngetich stated that she will be motivating students by awarding top holistic students (read academics and co-curricular activities) from all the five JKUAT Colleges with a cash price of Ksh. 10,000 and an accompanying trophy. This award, the Vice Chancellor, declared will be known as the ‘Gladys Chepkurui Ngetich most well rounded students’ awards.

She is also looking forward to working at the luxurious Rolls Royce company where she has a patent with them, as an innovator.

In her parting shot, Ms. Ngetich said it is her hope that her journey will inspire other students to hold their heads high rather than looking down on themselves for performing poorly. She said hard work, dedication and passion were the ingredients that would turn their fate around.

Prof. Ngumi paid tribute to her for placing JKUAT in the global map while urging her to continue being the University’s global ambassador.

She urged her to mentor other students in the University especially being a lady in a male dominated profession saying, “It was a good opportunity for other students to know that there is more than graduating and getting a job.”

Prof. Ngumi lauded her for choosing to come back to her alma mater so as to mentor other engineering students stressing that “it is a great example to other alumni.”

Present during the courtesy call were Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs, Prof. Robert Kinyua, Principle College of Engineering and Technology, Dr. Hiram Nderitu and Dean School of Mechanical, Manufacturing & Materials Engineering, Dr. Mutuku Muvengei






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