When St Gabriel Boarding Primary School in Mwingi, Kitui County, reopened for the third term in September, its Standard Eight pupils began preparing for the national examinations without 10 of their friends who died in a road accident.
The school had still been struggling to come to terms with the tragedy that occurred on August 5 as they returned from a five-day study cum motivational trip to Mombasa.
Survivors of that accident, that drew national outrage over the safety of school buses, rose from brokenness, worked hard and managed impressive results in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations.
Among those who defied the odds were candidates who suffered serious injuries in the crash.
In the results that Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed announced on Monday, the school was among the top 10 in the county.
Nine of the 10 pupils who died were candidates and among the best performers in the school, so there was a huge gap.
St Gabriel, an academy run by the Kitui Catholic Diocese, emerged the second best private school in Kitui with a mean score of 373.3 marks, up from 357 in 2017.
The school posted positive deviations in all subjects except Science, while the highest score also improved from last year's 405 marks to 425.
The best candidate, Eric Kathula Ngombo, got 425 marks with accident survivors Ashley Mwende, Faith Mumo, Diana Mwangi, Lyn Mutua impressively scoring 415, 414, 383 and 356 marks respectively.
Board chairman Christopher Nzili was elated by the results, which showed that 29 pupils scored 350 marks and above, qualifying for admission to extra-county secondary schools.
"I take this opportunity to congratulate our candidates, teachers, parents and all stakeholders for the teamwork and great moral support given to our pupils after the accident to enable them score good grades," said Mr Nzili.
The chairman noted that the accident disrupted exam preparations as the candidates lost friends they had had for years.
It took tremendous effort to counsel them so they could overcome the psychological trauma, Mr Nzili said.
The school held a thanksgiving mass on Tuesday to celebrate the pupils.
The bus, which had Standard Eight pupils only, collided with a trailer near Mwingi town. Eight pupils died at the scene while six were seriously wounded and the rest sustained injuries such as broken limbs, fractures and bruises.
Two pupils, among the six that were referred to Kenyatta National Hospital, died from excessive bleeding, the first while on the way to the Nairobi facility and the other while being treated.
They had travelled a distance of more than 600 kilometres, after the trip that saw them tour sites such as the Fort Jesus, Bamburi Reptile Park, the Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach and the Moi International Airport.