PhD at 28: Second chance that changed Dr Purity Ngina’s life

From just 235 marks in KCPE, she has risen to become Kenya’s youngest Doctor of mathematics

It’s a fairy tale that turned out to be true. The story of Purity Ngina’s academic journey is inspirational as much as it is interestingly surprising – and proves that indeed a second chance indeed offers a lifeline.

Ngina scored 235 marks out of the possible 500 in her first attempt at the Kenya Certificate of Primary Examination (KCPE). In a system that glorifies grade, she had failed!

She was forced to repeat Class Eight a year later (2003) and scored 369 marks and joined Tumutumu Girls High School in Nyeri County, where she sat for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination (KCSE) in 2007 and scored a mean grade of B+ (Plus).

Years later, she is PhD in mathematics!

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Born and bred in Mbiriri Village, Kieni East in Nyeri, Dr Ngina is walking tall in the world of academia. At 28 years Ngina, the last born in a family of two who recently graduated at Strathmore University, became the youngest Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) graduate in Kenya. Her PhD in Biomathematics, a shied upon field by man, has been the talk of town ever since.

Dr Ngina joined university at aged 19 years and has overcome adversities to attain the highest education qualification while still in her 28, a rare fit in developing economies with winding education systems.

Despite a heartbreaking period when her mother passed on, she soldiered on and on June 29, 2018, she was awarded a PhD in Biomathematics from Strathmore University.

“My mother’s death broke my heart,” says Dr Ngina, who works as a lecturer at Strathmore University, in an interview with edaily. “She supported me throughout my studies; and I really wished she was there to see me graduate with a PhD. Nonetheless, even in absentia, I had vowed to make her proud.”

She teaches calculus to students pursuing Actuarial Science, Financial Engineering, and Financial Economics. At the age of 28, chances are high she is younger than most of her postgraduate students. “They respect me. We joke at times and when we bump into each other on the streets, we say hello,” she says.

Besides Strathmore University, Dr Ngina is an alumnus of Egerton University, where she studied Bachelor of Education science (Mathematics and Chemistry) between 2009 and 2013.

Purity Ngina (second left) in this 1994 family photo. Photo / eDaily

“I was awarded a scholarship after graduating with First Class Honors of 75 points. I pursued a Master’s degree in Applied Mathematics at the same university. When I graduated in 2015 I was 25 years old then,” she say.

While studying for her Master’s, Ngina was a tutorial fellow at Egerton University and published three papers. “I also did some part-time work at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Nakuru campus,” she said.

Dr Ngina, who is still single, says she enrolled for her PhD at the Strathmore University in 2016 after landing scholarships with the German Government and the National Research Fund. “In the course of my PhD study, I went to Germany for six months, where I met professors in my educational field. I discussed my project with them. They guided me throughout the project,” she said.

RELATED: HOW TO JOIN CAMPUS WITH A D+ AND GET A DEGREE

Ngina’s PhD thesis was titled: “Mathematical modelling of in-vivo HIV optimal therapy and management”. “I tried to understand the role played by various ARV/ARTs/HAART to see how we can optimise the treatment regimes to yield maximum benefit,” she said.

Her parting shot? “Don’t let your background limit your vision,” Dr Ngina says, “you are the key to the door you want to open. And success is never preserved for particular individuals. It is for those who chose and do the normal things in an outstanding way. We all have the potential to be a better version of ourselves

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