Slain terrorist was a ‘gifted, obedient student’
The best education that Mohammed Abdirahim Abdullahi received in his formative years and the strict discipline at his former school did not stop him from leading the massacre of 148 students years later.
Abdirahim, the man who led the Al-Shabaab killer squad that raided Garissa University College just two months after celebrating his 27th birthday, has been described by his high school teachers as a genius and a “gifted kid”.
After scoring 283 out of 500 marks in his KCPE at the Mandera D.E.B. Primary School, he would leave Mandera County to pursue the rest of his education in Nairobi.
“Indeed, a very obedient and hardworking boy. He can do well and perform better if given an opportunity,” his primary school final result slip reads.
He got the opportunity at Wamy High School in Nairobi, which he joined in 2004 and quickly rose to be among the top performing students in his class.
“He struggled in the first few months of his first year, largely because he was adjusting to the urban culture and new friends. He would adjust quickly and by the time he was in Form Three, he was the top of his class,” Mr Paul Ng’ang’a, Abdirahim’s former Mathematics teacher, told the Daily Nation.
Mr Ng’ang’a is also the Deputy Principal at Wamy High School, and was therefore responsible for Abdirahim’s discipline in the four years the teenager was there.
“The boy was a very active and outstanding member of the Mathematics Club. He also loved football and was active in the field,” he adds, a mixture of pride and perplexity in his eyes.
One of Abdirahim’s former classmates says claims that he could have been radicalized at the school are not only false, but are also unreasonable.
“I remember at least 80 per cent of our teachers were non-Muslims. Abdirahim and the other guy known as Atom, who allegedly crossed borders and joined IS became very good friends after high school. They shared a lot because they both came from the north eastern part of the country.
“I think that was when they became radicalized,” adds the friend, whose name cannot be revealed to protect his privacy.
When the Daily Nation visited the school on Tuesday afternoon, it was established that only five of the 32 teachers were Muslims while 27 of the 30 non-teaching staff were Christians.
“So it doesn’t make any sense to even speculate that Abdirahim may have come into contact with radical groups while at the school. Furthermore, he left the school way back in 2007 when radicalization was unheard of,” said Mr Ng’ang’a.
He was responding to recent allegations by Mandera County Commissioner Alex ole Nkoyo who suggested that, from his interactions with Abdikadir’s father, he may have come into that the boy might have had contact with extremists while at the school.
Abdirahim’s high school academic record reveals that he lived up to the school’s motto: “Strive to Excel.”
His Form One results slip shows that he was at position five out of the 70 students in his class with a mean grade of A- (minus). He would have scored a straight A were it not for his poor performance in Kiswahili, where he scored a C- (minus).
Wamy High School was established in 2003 and has been among the top performing private schools in the country. Majority of the students are Muslims.
The school was ranked at position 23 nationally in the 2013 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) results.
This stellar performance, Mr Ng’ang’a explains, is only because the school is founded upon the Muslim values of strict personal discipline and excellence.
Lethome Ibrahim, one of the board members and a parent at the school, told the Daily Nation that Wamy High School strives to meet the highest quality standards in the country.
“In fact, quality assurance officers from the Ministry of Education visited the school last year after our stellar performance. They checked our curriculum and admission processes and everything came out squeaky clean,” he says.
Wamy High School’s mission is to “encourage and facilitate formation of each student’s moral character, unique skill, capacities and creation of strong communal social responsibility.”
“Muslim parents are drawn to the school because of our discipline record and teaching ethic. Beyond this, there is nothing particularly Muslim in our curriculum. That’s why majority of our teachers are Christians,” adds the Deputy Principal.
Ironically, despite the disproportionately large percentage of Christian teachers in the school, only 21 of the current 500 students are Christians. The rest are Muslims.
According to the school’s website, the institution was established by World Assembly of Muslim Youth (Wamy) in a bid to provide Muslims with access to education at different levels.
Abdirahim is one of those who benefited from this education and discipline, but that did not prevent him from turning out the way he eventually did.