Kilifi's High Vision Academy pulled a surprise in Coast, producing the best candidate in the region in this year's Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), whose results were released Monday by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha.
Rodney Isaack Kahura scored 431 marks to emerge Coast's top candidate.
Lamu's Stonetown Academy also recorded a splendid performance as it produced the region's second-best candidate, Aisha Haroon Mohammed, who obtained 429 marks.
Speaking to the Nation, Master Kahura said: "This is unbelievable. I didn't expect to top and I really want to thank God and my parents for this. I also want to appreciate my teachers for pushing me to achieve these results," Kahura said, adding that he expects to join Alliance High School, which he hopes will shape his dream to become an engineer in the future.
Two girls followed in the region's merit list. Aisha Haroon Mohammed, with 429 marks, followed by Mombasa's Nyali School's Maku Hanifa Makena, who garnered 427 marks. Khamis Hafidha Abdulaziz, who obtained 426 marks, was fourth.
"I am happy to have emerged the top candidate in Lamu. Deep gratitude to my parents, teachers and fellow candidates. They supported me and that enabled me to score the high marks. I am happy. I expect to join Pangani Girls High and I want to be a gynaecologist," said Aisha.
Nationally, the best candidate was Andy Michael Munyiri of Damcrest Schools, Thogoto, Kikuyu, who obtained 440 marks.
But this was a climbdown from last year, when the two best candidates obtained 453 marks.
They were Olive Mwea Wachira of Riara Road Primary in Nairobi and Rawlings Odhiambo Aketch of Kakamega Hill School.
This year, the second position was taken by three candidates, Flavian Onyango of Chakol Girls, June Cheptoo Koech of Sangalo Central and Sean Michael Ndungu of Kitengela International School.
They all had 439 marks. Flavian and June were from public schools, a major feat given that private schools have perennially dominated the top positions.
Releasing the results, Prof Magoha commended public schools for putting up a spirited fight to post several candidates in the top bracket.
"That public school candidates matched their private school counterparts is proof that free primary education has come of age and that our teachers are excelling in spite of high enrolment," he said.
DECLINE IN MARKS
Performance improved in four of the six KCPE papers. These were English, Kiswahili, Kenya Sign Language, Social Studies and Religious Education.
Boys continued to perform better in mathematics and the sciences compared with girls, who did better in English, Kiswahili and Kenya Sign Language.
"Like last year, female candidates performed slightly better than male counterparts in English, Kiswahili and Kenya Sign Language. On the other hand, male candidates performed slightly better in mathematics, science and social studies and Religious Education," Prof Magoha said.
In total, there were 1,083,456 candidates who sat the exam, comprising 543,582 males and 539,874 females, representing 50.1 per cent and 49.9 per cent, respectively.
In 2018, there were 1,052,344 candidates, consisting of 527,294 boys and 525,070 girls.
The number of candidates who scored 400 marks and above dropped to 9,770 this year compared with 11,559 last year and 9,846 in 2017.
But those with 301-400 marks rose to 243,320 against the previous 223,862.
Only four cases of cheating were reported this time around, and the results were cancelled.
For the Coast region, the 2019 results also cast dark clouds over public schools, which only managed to produce a single candidate in the top 20 spots claimed by private schools.
It was only Boniface Kithi Tsofwa from Dzikunze Mixed Day & Boarding Primary school in Kilifi, with 416 marks, who provided solace for public schools in Coast.
At Nyali Primary School, Hafidha, the daughter of Technical University of Mombasa Vice-Chancellor Laila Abubakar, could not hide her joy at the revelation that she was the region's third-best performer.
Speaking to the Nation at the school, the two top girls, who both want to join Kenya High School, attributed their success to God and hard work.
"I am so happy to learn that I'm the top pupil in the region. My dream has come true. It has not been an easy journey but I thank God," said the joyful Hanifa.
Hanifa, who wants to become a doctor after her secondary school, thanked her parents and teachers for the support that helped her earn good marks.
"I am so excited to learn that my girl is among the top in the region. I want to urge other girls out there to strive hard," said her mother Halima Tsala.
For her part, Hafidha, who was accompanied by her mother Prof Abubakar, said the journey was not easy, but "I thank my parents and teachers as well for holding my hand throughout".
Hafidha said she aspires to be a pilot. "I am happy to see girls leading in the region. We are happy as a region and school for these good results," said Prof Abubakar.
The school's head teacher John Kombo said he was happy with the good performance of the entire school, where more than 27 pupils scored 400 marks and above.
"We walked all the way with candidates and they have performed well. We want to thank God for helping us produce the top girls in the entire region," he said.
At Mombasa's Busy Bee Academy, it was all song and dance after all their 36 candidates posted exemplary results. The highest candidate, Kai Irene Muyaza, scored 422 marks.
School Principal Dorothy Ndoro said the results did not come as a surprise as they had prepared their candidates well.
"We expected good results, we had a record of posting good results because of our hard work and determination," she said.
In Kwale, there was also celebration at Bethany Christian Academy after it produced the best pupil in the county in this year's KCPE results.
Mwendwa Mwaniki, 15, scored 421 marks. He was delighted to have topped the examination after eight years of hard work and dedication.
Mwaniki was followed closely in second position by Dorcas Ngowa, who scored 417 marks.
She wants to join Kenya High School. Comfort Hiribae came third with 415 marks and wants to join Starehe Boys Centre.
The school's director, Young Lee, said they had 15 candidates and eight of them scored 400 marks and above attaining a mean score of 400.
In Tana River, Life Frontier Academy in Madogo, Tana North Sub-County, which registered 52 candidates, produced the top five candidates in the county.
Winnie Gloria Otieno put the school at the helm after scoring 413 marks, followed by Alex Josephat Kyalo with 404 and Mahabub Mohamed Said with 402.
The 13-year-old Winnie, who wishes to join Alliance Girls School, wants to become a doctor.
"They have done us proud; we walk with our heads up in the sky again; they have saved us from last year's shame," said head teacher Eunice Muriuki.
The school, which also serves as a rescue camp for girls running from female genital mutilation, came third last year after Holly Angels Academy and Ama Primary, which both posted exemplary results.