A message of hope for KCSE non-performers: 3R and 3S

Every year more than half a million Kenyan students undertake a gruesome three weeks of tests known as KCSE while manned with armed and terrifying police and invigilators, an exam which they are told will determine their future.

This one-dimensional exam purporting to be the standard of measure for the value of young people torments them on the basis of their ability to cram knowledge, (most of which they will never apply in life) and throws them deeper into the spiral of purposeless lives. When they are done, they celebrate in an ecstatic fashion not because of the future ahead, but because they are finally done with that stupid exam.

A month down the line, the results are out and more than 80 percent of all the students have failed. They are doomed, regarded by the community as failures whose future is bleak. Some are forced to repeat another 2 years of cruel and humiliating high schooling. You know why? Because without KCSE papers you can achieve nothing in Kenya.

Others say ‘to hell’ and go to the wild to hunt and gather what they can; they cannot stand the system anymore. For those that were lucky enough to pass, tertiary education awaits, followed by the old son and daughter of a gun; Mr. Unemployment and Miss Bad Economy.

I can go on and on about the deep cracks that exist within the Kenyan education system and why it needs a major revamp but today I wish to take a motivational stand and talk to the young people who didn’t make it in the KCSE.

There is hope for you. There is greatness within your reach. There is a myriad of opportunities out here you can exploit and build a better life for yourself and for your people. The notion that your KCSE grade determines your destiny is utter nonsense, at least for today’s and future generations. What you have to do in the simplest terms possible is through the 3Rs and 3Ss: Relax, Refresh, Research, Select, Start, Stick.

1. Relax

It has been a tough 12 years especially the last 4 years. Strict rules, tough teachers, tight programs and much more. And you’ve survived. Some dropped out, some were forced by unfair conditions, but you, you made it out, you are lucky. Give yourself a pat on the back. You are a freaking success.

You Did It!

Acknowledging that you already are a success based on the fact that you completed the 8.4 system is a very important step for you. Humans tend to focus more on the half-empty glass than the half-full glass probably because the society and the education system has taught them so.

You need to take some time alone in a calming environment and in a relaxed position. Think about yourself, the hell you went through, the great moments you had, the embarrassing times too, the little successes. Reflect on your past, not obsessively, but subtly. Think of them as moments that are past you now, they no longer exist.

Also, go out with a handful of your friends. Go and have a drink, dessert or a meal together, share your past moments, laugh a little, do some fun outdoor activity, let everything out. You did it man/girl. At the moment, nothing else matters. YOU DID IT. Fkn Relax.

2. Refresh

For you to move ahead, you also need to refresh your mind. By refresh, I mean dispel all the negative thoughts that have been ingrained into your system. That you cannot make it if you don’t pass in your exams, that you are only as good as your grade and all those ideas that make you feel worthless.

There is more to life than good grades and although education is the key to success, it does not open all success doors in a country of limited job opportunities and a struggling economy. Knowledge and skill however, are the keys to limitless possibilities. What is success to you? Is it, owning a Land cruiser V8, a mansion in Runda, having kids that study abroad, being a beacon of hope for the people, saving a thousand lives?

Whichever way you define it, success will be achieved only when you amass the necessary knowledge and skill to a point where people will pay you for your services. Education doesn’t really get you there. It only gets you to a point where you can identify the knowledge and skill you need to succeed.

So recharge your mind. It’s not going to be easy but you’ve got to. Use positive affirmations to rewire your mind. Watch some motivational videos on YouTube. Read encouraging content and watch documentaries of people who beat all odds to make it. Most importantly, have faith in this step. It might seem like BS but it does wonders for those who believe.  

3. Research

Having positively rewired your mind, it’s time to dive into some darn serious research aimed at giving you a purpose in life. First, you need to brainstorm the things that matter to you. What have you dreamt of achieving in life?

Don’t think in line with what your parents and teachers have told you, for instance, being a neurosurgeon or a pilot because you’ll make a ton of cash. Think about your own self-derived dreams. Which career goals will you regret if not achieved by the time you are old and wrinkly? Write them down.

Secondly, focus on what you are good at. You certainly weren’t the best in class but I can bet there was something else you were good at that earned your respect among your peers. Was it singing, playing football, athletics, music, acting, computer skills or selling stuff? Or was it public speaking, or debating, or leadership, or negotiation. Write it down even if it sounds stupid

Now that you have two lists, put them next to each other and try to find connections. Which skill can enable you to achieve which goal? Align them respectively. Be realistic but don’t be afraid of dreaming big. For instance, if you hope to be a beacon of the people, you can do it by being a politician. Check your skill list. Are you a good speaker? Can you debate?

If not, are you a good sportsperson? Yes! How can you use sports to give hope to people? Check what Sadio Mane is doing. Be creative and define a path for yourself. There are unlimited paths for you to achieve your goals.

Next, talk to people; your guardians first. Describe to them your dreams and let them react. Some reactions will be positive, others not. Pick positive ideas. Then go out and find mentors. You will be surprised at the number of humble people out here who never finished school but are doing so well with their businesses.

Go and talk to them especially if their achievements are in line with your dreams. Get a mentor and pester them with questions about the industry. Take notes and learn enthusiastically. Lessons from teachers will help you pass exams but lessons from mentors will help you survive and thrive in this cruel world.

Mentors give you the shortcut to success.

Besides, use the internet (man’s most impressive invention) to expand your study. Kenya is one of the most connected countries in the world. Use your smartphone to dig the goldmine that is the internet. Are you aware people make money on the internet nowadays while seated comfortably in their beds or traveling the world?

4. Select

Check out the opportunities available around you, which are hundreds if not thousands. If you use the internet, they are much more. List those that align with your skills and dreams. The problem with our generation is that we have too many options on the table that we fail to select and consequently fail to act.

You must have the courage to select. Every opportunity seems life-changing and is yearning for attention but you must remember you can only be great in one thing at a time. If you pick more than one unrelated opportunities, they will both fail miserably.

Garry Keller puts it well in his bestseller The One Thing;

Extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus … when you spread yourself out, you end up spread thin.

Garry Keller: The One Thing

If you want to succeed in your plan, you need to narrow down onto one opportunity or several that are very much related and that can be pursued jointly.

Be careful also not to be swept by opportunities that promise you heaven in a few days or weeks, 99% of them are scams. Opportunities that seem so easy and too good to be true are usually just that, shams. A good way to protect yourself from them is by involving an experienced mentor or guardian before jumping into any of them. They are more likely to notice the loopholes.

5. Start

Now that you are set, how about jumping off the plane and building wings on the way down? Starting is very scary for most people. The ideas that you aren’t ready enough, or of the failures ahead or how people will torment you if you fail, are the source of this fear.

And where do you think they came from? Right! Our education system, which teaches us that you must be fully prepared for exams to pass, that if you fail you will be a laughing stock and people will not respect you. But, I guess by now you’ve already dispelled those ideas in the second step “Refresh” Didn’t you?

Every great thing began with one action.

Having defined your path to achieving your goals and having selected what you will focus on, press the start button. You don’t need a perfect plan, enough capital, enough knowledge or even enough team members. All you need is yourself and a pestering passion. Start small, grow big; It’s the best path to success.

6. Stick

This might just be the most important step in your pursuit of success. As you work towards your dreams, you will encounter obstacles. People might discourage you and failures will make you wonder whether you’re doing the right thing or digging a grave for yourself. Meanwhile, your friends will have some success within their hustles and envy will strike.

Remember this: life is not a race to a finish line; everybody is running his or her own race. Perseverance and passion will hold you when people and failures discourage you. The path to success is never easy. Be the tough cookie that achieves greatness despite a 1000 failed lightbulb tests.

Also, stick to your gun. A cool Swahili saying goes

“Usiache mbachao kwa mswala upitao”

Swahili Saying

Do not abandon your old for the temporary that is better for you will need the old. When Tom strikes it big in chicken rearing, stick like glue on your rabbit rearing. You did some crazy research and made a plan. Nothing should deter your focus.

Nonetheless, this is not to say that you shouldn’t grasp opportunities when they come. If you can integrate the new opportunity with your old gig or can do both without either affecting the performance of the other, then it’s worth a try. However, never make a mistake of completely dropping your old gig for something you aren’t sure about.


I’m not a professor in career advice, neither am I an icon in professional success, yet with the little time I’ve been blessed to be alive, I can see structural issues with the way the society is preparing young people for Adult life. I think there is more to offer than just negative ideas of success and on-dimensional standards of value measurement for people.

I believe anyone including students who didn’t fare well in the KCSE, can achieve greatness and no barrier of progress such as national exams should limit you. Use the 3Rs and 3Ss method to reestablish yourself as a valuable person to the society and above all to achieve your wildest imaginations.

If you want a little help, advice or ideas in any of the 3Rs and 3Ss, leave a comment and I will be glad to help.


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