A first-rate mathematician
Posted Saturday, June 2 2012 at 00:00
This young woman was once terrified of everything to do with mathematics; the math teacher, the math lesson, exams… but you wouldn’t know it by reading her CV.
Twenty-seven-year-old Idah Makena Mbaabu is on her way to getting a PhD in mathematics.
Yes, you read that right: PhD. And this after being the only woman in her Master’s class.
The terror has blossomed into an intense love for all things numerical. But it wasn’t as easy as one, two, three.
“I was born in Igoji, Meru,” begins the first born in a family of two girls. “My father, Francis Mbaabu, was a farmer while my mother, Salome, was a businesswoman in Meru Town.
Although, we were not rich, our parents worked hard to put food on the table and provide us with good education. It’s the finest inheritance a child can ever get from a parent.”
Idah began her schooling at Kamuchatha Boarding Primary School in Meru. Like many other girls, a cold shiver raced down her spine at the mere thought of the word ‘mathematics’.
“Mathematics was usually a double lesson, and we got scared whenever we saw Mr Munene, the maths teacher, walking down the corridor towards our class. Working out equations and formulae for 90 minutes every day was not a cup of tea.”
Nevertheless, it looked like her teacher was bent on shoving the subject down her throat.
Idah vividly recalls a thorough spanking she got while in Standard Six after dropping five marks to score 58 per cent in an end-term math paper.
“I got a whipping which Mr Munene promised to carry on with until I scored my previous marks.”
Idah says that this is when she began to wonder what it was about mathematics that only boys could grasp.
“I wanted to prove to my teacher that I could do it,” she says.
Eventually, Idah became friends with the subject, albeit gradually.
“I sought help from my parents and older friends,” she says. “Eventually, my grades began to improve and from Class Seven onwards, I never scored below 80 per cent in mathematics.”
In 2000, she joined Kieni Sacred Heart High School in Embu. Idah admits that while the subject looked a bit tougher in secondary school, she didn’t have problems with it.
“I did not struggle. I had inculcated a passion for maths and with encouragement from my teachers, there was no turning back.”
Subsequently, Idah’s conquest of the hitherto labeled ‘anti-girls’ subject extended to regional mathematics contests where she won accolade after accolade.