Purity Ngina: Youngest PhD Holder In Biomathematics Who Scored 235 In KCPE

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Purity Ngina: Youngest PhD Holder In Biomathematics Who Scored 234 In KCPE
A Beaming Purity Ngina Displaying Her PhD Certificate Photo/Strathmore

By Prudence Minayo

In 2018, Purity Ngina made history by becoming Kenya’s youngest PhD holder in Biomathematics at the age of 28. Despite flopping in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations by scoring 235 marks, she rose to become an academic giant in the country. In her world, applied mathematics plays a pivotal role in answering many of life’s questions. 

On becoming the youngest Biomathematics PhD holder in the country, she said it felt great and normal.

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“I’ve never felt any different. I’m still learning and growing. I want to have an impact whether through my story or research – so when you think of Biomathematics you think Purity Ngina – at the same time I want to remain humble,” she said. 

Lecturer

Purity worked as a lecturer of calculus at Strathmore University. She taught students at the university   pursuing Actuarial Science, Financial Engineering and Financial Economics. Ms Purity Ngina is a research and assessment manager at Zizi Afrique Foundation. 

With HIV being a global pandemic, she made the deliberate decision to be a part of the solution to the global epidemic. This is why in her final dissertation, she did an analysis of the dynamics of HIV with in-vivo modelling. This is a model that gets to see the interaction and relationship between body cells, the virus coming in and what can be done to solve it. She says effective research can improve the reality that is HIV for the better. For her research, she visited BTU University in Germany for six months. 

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Background and Education 

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She was born in a village called Mbiriri in Nyeri as the last born in a family of two. They were single handedly raised by their mother who was a casual laborer. Life was not easy and they hardly had enough money to live on. Her brother passed KCPE but was unable to further his studies due to financial constraints. 

This discouraged a young Purity as she didn’t see the need of working hard only to discontinue her education. In her mind, she was destined to get married to a villager or work in people’s farms for wages. 

She first sat for her KCPE examination in 2002 but her dismal performance impelled her to re-sit  the exams in 2003. At first, she didn’t want to go back to school. Her mother convinced her and promised to take her to secondary school if she did well. This was the motivation she needed and the value of education finally sank into her. She scored 369 marks and was admitted to Tumu Tumu Girls. 

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There was no money and she had to stay at home for a while. She also got her first pair of shoes which belonged to her cousin and couldn’t even fit properly. She joined form one with an old box which would creak as she opened it early in the morning to the annoyance of those still sleeping. She also had strong mother tongue influence having been raised up in the village which made her a laughingstock. 

Her situation motivated her to work hard and at the end she scored a B+. At the time, students had to wait for two years before joining university.

Purity went to Nairobi where she worked as a house help. She then returned to the village and worked as an untrained teacher. A fundraising (Harambee) was organized to raise her fees when she received her admission letter to join Egerton University to  pursue Bachelor of Education Science, Mathematics and Chemistry. 

Higher Education

In her first year on campus, she secured a Sh16,000 scholarship. She finally graduated with First Class Honors. This earned her a full scholarship to pursue a Masters Degree in Applied Mathematics. 

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While most students are only keen to graduate, Ms Purity Ngina had set her sight on becoming the best. This is why she managed to graduate with First Class honors, a feat she says was not hard at all. 

“For me I had a vision and a mission: to be the best and successful.”

In 2015, she graduated with a Masters degree and was on the Vice Chancellor’s list of honor for exceptional performance. Upon graduation, she was invited to teach at Strathmore University. 

In 2016, the German Academic Exchange offered her a scholarship to pursue a PhD in Biomathematics at Strathmore University. 

Loss 

Purity lost her mother who was seemingly healthy at the time of her death. This was in 2017 while she was still pursuing her PhD. Having been her only parent, this caused her a lot of trauma  and she began battling insomnia for sometime. For more than a year, sleep eluded her as she resorted to pills to make her sleep. She did not like taking the drugs which meant at times work became her solace. Losing her mother made her work even harder. 

“Her death made me work even harder, because I wanted to prove to myself that as much as she was my greatest pillar, she is gone but still left someone who can stand on her own. It pushed me somehow to even work harder,” she said. 

Also Read: Fridah Mokaya: First Black Woman To Receive A PhD in Nuclear Physics

Marriage 

The bubbly academic married the man she met at Egerton University while she was pursuing her undergraduate degree. Germano Mugambi was an engineering major who also graduated with First Class Honors and was awarded a scholarship which saw him go to Germany. They reconnected and while people discouraged him from marrying an academic, he knew she was the one. They had a low profile church wedding and for their honeymoon visited schools in his county and her former school Tumu Tumu Girls giving hope to the youngsters.

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