"To God be the Glory!"
These were the words of Sosiana High School Principal Magdalene Kimani after she learned the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) had recognised her efforts to ensure her school beats tough odds to excel.
Every weekday, Ms Kimani braves the rough terrain of Trans Mara East in Narok County on a 20km-odd round trip to deliver exams to her 18 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam candidates.
The principal expressed joy and relief after the announcement.
The recognition followed a week of threats from some Ministry of Education officials who were unhappy that she had revealed her plight to the media.
It has been a traumatic week marked by fears of losing her job or being demoted for what was just an innocent interview with the Nation on the extra mile she had to go to ensure her candidates sit their exams on schedule.
"I have been stressed this one week. It has been tough for me. I have been regretting responding to your request for an interview. I did not know it would land me into trouble. I did not know it was wrong and just spoke to you like I would speak to any other person. But with today's development, I am relieved," Mrs Kimani said in a phone interview with the Nation.
TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia on Thursday said they would reward teachers like her for their exemplary performance.
"You may have read in the papers about the case of one incredible teacher in Narok County who walks long distances daily. We celebrate such teachers," said Ms Macharia during the release of the 2020 KCPE exam results in Nairobi.
Mrs Kimani said she would not say much but thanked the TSC for recognising her efforts.
"After the story was first published on Tuesday, I could not even eat after what followed. Fellow teachers consoled and encouraged me. God is great, after I delivered today's KCSE paper, I found so many texts on my phone from friends and relatives about Ms Macharia's message. I have no words but to thank them," she said.
The Nation established Kilgoris Constituency Development Fund (CDF) officials visited the school on Wednesday to assess the state of the Junction-Sosiana road, which leads to the school.
Due to the poor condition of the road, vehicles and boda bodas opt for the alternative Murkan-Sosiana road, which is shorter but in equally terrible state.
On Wednesday, Emurua Dikirr MP Johana Ng'eno explained that Sosiana High School is in Kilgoris Constituency though, administratively, it is in Trans Mara East sub-county.
"Let it be noted that the school is not in my constituency," said Mr Ngen'o.
On Wednesday, teachers' unions condemned education officials' harassment of Ms Kimani.
In a rare show of unity, Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) and the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) said the Ministry of Education ought to have lauded the teacher for her sacrifice, noting her case is only a minute indication of the challenges tutors face across the country.
The unions weighed in after the teacher was threatened with disciplinary action and summoned to record a statement.
The ministry officials wanted her to explain why she spoke to the media and allowed journalists to accompany her on her daily trip on Friday.
The officials said Ms Kimani was not authorised to speak to journalists and that information regarding the Ministry of Education should only come from them.
It is estimated Ms Kimani will have walked a distance of more than 320 kilometres, the equivalent of a draining trek from Nairobi to Bungoma town, by the time KCSE exams are over.
Seeking to "walk in her shoes", the Nation accompanied her on her Friday trip and revealed what hundreds, if not thousands, of rural teachers are going through just to ensure candidates sit their exams.
With two police officers in tow, Ms Kimani endures the morning chill and trudges on the muddy Murkan-Sosiana road undeterred by the bushes and boulders in her path.
She crosses the seasonal river Kibailuk and walks uphill to her school, which stands 10 kilometres from Murkan centre.
The three are later joined by a supervisor and two invigilators.
During heavy rains, they avoid the usually swollen river and wade through a marshy stretch to the school.
"We pick up the exams from the Trans Mara East sub-county headquarters at 6am. A police van then drops us off at Murkan. This is the last point that is accessible by a vehicle. From there, we walk to school and we must be quick enough to ensure we do not delay the exams," she said as we walked back on her return journey.