Double excellence: Celebrating twins with identical exam results

They are similar in many ways. Apart from sharing identical physical attributes, some of them end up sharing similar or near similar scores in national examinations. Janice and Crystal Njuguna are this year’s success story.

Saturday January 2 2016

Tony Njuguna's twins Crystal Njuguna (Right) with Janice Njuguna at their relative home in Nairobi on January 1 2016. PHOTO| ANTHONY OMUYA 

By VINCENT ACHUKA
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They were born on the same day on November 22, 2000 — Janice Njuguna just six minutes before her sister Crystal Njuguna. Fifteen years later, the race to determine who is the better twin of the sisters is

still on. And it shows no signs of relenting any time soon.

In April last year, Janice was crowned the best actress in Kirinyaga County during the Schools and Colleges Drama Festivals while Crystal was the second best actress after they starred in the same play for their school.

This week it was Crystal’s turn to shine after she beat her sister marginally in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination whose results were released on Wednesday. She scored 423

marks against Janice’s 420. They were pupils of Kerugoya Good Shepherd School.

But the similarities of the daughters of veteran comedian Tony Njuguna don’t end there.

“My dream is to be a lawyer, if not I will then join medicine,” Crystal says.

DOCTOR OR LAWYER

Janice, who is more outspoken than her sister, says: “I want to be a doctor but if that doesn’t work out, I will take law.”

Their father says the situation has been like this for the twins for the whole of their lives.

“They are in a world of their own, each one telling the other ‘I am better than you in this’ as the other responds ‘I am still better than you on so many other things’,” says Mr Njuguna.

When they were in Standard Seven after their end-year results Janice scored 420 and Crystal 423 just like they did in KCPE. However, Mr Njuguna says that since nursery school their individual performance

has always had a similar pattern.  

 “To them their classmates have never existed, they have been competing against themselves from the time they started walking,” he says.

“So after years of trying to determine who is better than the other without a conclusion, Janice promised Crystal that in Standard Eight they will finally know who is better than the other but I don’t think the KCPE results are the end,” the proud father says.

It is unclear whether this is pure coincidence or fate but the KCPE performance of the sisters came months after they told their father, who captured the country’s imagination as part of the Redykyulass

comedy trio, to take a back seat as it was their time  to be famous.

In Kitui, the sons of the Officer in charge of Kitui Women’s Prison Jacinta Nduku had to be separated from class while in Standard Four at 91 Municipality Primary School at the intervention of their mother.

“They were always scoring near similar or similar marks. It was so similar that even if there was a difference in how they performed in individual subjects, the total marks were the same,” she says.

“My first instinct was they were copying from each other because they sat next to one another and I wrote to the headteacher asking him to place them in different classes. The school at first refused saying they had not seen anything wrong but I persisted until they caved in,” she recalls.

Still, the difference between the performance of Abraham Muithai and Ismael Mwarandu in the KCPE examination in 2012 was just two marks. Abraham, who was born five minutes before his brother,

scored 353 marks while his brother scored 355. The two joined Kitui High School the following year and will be sitting their Form Four examination at the end of this year.

Last term, the two also had a near similar academic performance, another milestone in a trend that has charactarised their last 17 years. They both scored B plain; Ismael (62 points) and Abraham (60 points).

And like the Njuguna sisters, Abraham and Ismael’s identity is not just academic but also transcends their talents. They are both good in athletics and have been playing for their school’s basketball team since

they were in Form One.

“We are both in the first team and when we are both on the court, referees sometimes have a hard time,” Abraham says in jest.

And it would appear to be a trend.

Last year, twin brothers Daniel Kipyator and Dickson Korir, who sat their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination at Kapsabet Boys, both scored A-. They had done the same subjects and

scored the same mark in each and every subject. The twins had also both scored 391 marks in KCPE four years earlier.

The same school was also in the headlines in 2013 after it admitted three sets of twins in Form One who had also scored near similar marks in KCPE.

EXPERTS DIVIDED

Experts are divided on whether there is a specific reason why twins are likely to perform the same intellectually or have similar talents with some saying they have a similar genetic mix while others say their similarity, apart from their looks, is determined by the environment.

“When the ovum is fertilised, the chromosomal mathematics which determines the looks, character and abilities of a child, consists of 23 chromosomes from the father and another 23 from the mother,” says Dr Philomena Ndambuki, a psychologist at Kenyatta University.

“The nature of each child is determined by which parent’s gene was dominant or recessive during the fertilisation process but, for identical twins, one ovum disintegrates into two after fertilisation which creates two very identical human beings,” she says.

Dr Ndambuki argues that due to the genetic similarity, identical twins not only have similar physical appearances but have similar behaviour, looks, intelligence levels and talent.

Jamila Mbugua and her identical twin sister Wanjiru Mbugua were until last year popular figures in the media industry, each one in her own right. Jamila started her career as a news anchor at NTV before joining K24 TV then resigned to start her own public relations company. Wanjiru started as a news anchor at KBC before resigning and, just like her sister, went into public relations.

On the international scene, a number of celebrities too have twins.

American identical  twins Harry and Luke Treadaway made their name when they starred in the 2005 Hollywood film Brothers of the Head. During filming they were connected to each other for 15 hours a day with a harness, and slept in the same bed to simulate the connection of their characters.

Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen also from the US starred as twins in the 1990s sitcom Full House while Kiefer Sutherland, who was the main character in the globally popular series 24, has a twin sister Rachel who works as a production supervisor in the US.

Brazilian footballers Fabio and Rafael Da Silva were until recently playing as defenders for Manchester United before they were traded to Cardiff and Olympic Lyon. During their debut game in October 2009 against Barnsley, Fabio was given a yellow card for a foul that was committed by his brother.

Dr Ndambuki argues that when brought up in the same environment, a set of twins will develop a similar personality and when they are brought up in different places, their personalities also become different.

“Genetic development is also in some part determined by the environment. Because twins are born the same time there is also a big likelihood that their parents will raise them in the same way and it starts from buying them similar clothes,” she says.

World 10,000 and 5,000 metres champion, Somali born British athlete Mo Farah, has an identical twin brother Hassan. But while Mo is an athlete, Hassan works as a telecoms engineer in war-torn Somalia.

The pair were separated at the age of eight, when their parents faced the unenviable dilemma of which of their six children would join their father in England and which would stay in the war-torn nation. Their father could only support three of them in England so Hassan stayed while Mo left.

However claims published in the 2015 March issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, in a study conducted by scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and universities in Sweden and the Netherlands, dispute that identical twins have the same DNA.

“Some differences in a set of twins can spring from unique changes in what are known as epigenetic factors, the chemical markers that attach to genes and affect how they are expressed — in some cases by slowing or shutting the genes off, and in others by increasing their output,” said the study.

The genes

“These epigenetic markers vary widely from one person to another, but identical twins were still considered genetically identical because epigenetics influences only the expression of a gene and not the underlying sequence of the gene itself,” it said.

“These are known as copy number variations, in which a gene exists in multiple copies, or a set of coding letters in DNA is missing. Not known, however, is whether these changes in identical twins occur at the embryonic level, as the twins age or both,” it said.

Like in Kisumu, Shadrack Isingoma, Meshak Barongo and Abednego Benji scored 57, 56 and 55 points respectively in the KCSE examination.

All the three attended Mount Carmel Academy in Kisumu where they sat their KCPE and scored nearly similar marks in 2011. Shadrack had 335, Meshack 330 and Abednego 323. When they joined Kisumu Day, however, they chose to study in different streams.

However, the 19-year-olds said they have always had different academic abilities. 

“We never performed the same in our classwork,” said Meshack. “In fact, I didn’t like Kiswahili like my brothers who did so well in the subject.”

They said that although they did not perform to their expectation, they were glad that they had a difference of a point or two.

Their mother, a pastor at New Light Church, said the triplets had different study patterns and were never equally strong in their school work.

“Although deep in my heart I knew this would happen, I was only praying they perform well,” said Amoti who has two other sets of twins, other than the triplets.

Whereas Meshack had a partiality for the humanities, Shadrack was passionate about both humanities and sciences while Abednego was more inclined towards the sciences.

“We hope to join Kenyatta University to pursue different courses,” said Shadrack, the eldest of the three who intends to venture into film and theatre studies.

Meshack hopes to study film animation and cinematography.

Abednego, a vocalist and instrumentalist at Citam Church Kisumu, said: “I would like to study software engineering but I am passionate about music.”

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