Top grades for Arusha students: How an entire class excelled

Tuesday September 3 2019

From left Sabrina Moshy, Berend Timmer (Top

From left Sabrina Moshy, Berend Timmer (Top student) and Karl Mbugua. PHOTO|FILE  

By Mpoki Thomson @TheCitizenTz

Cambridge International Examinations results were released in August, 2019. It was all smiles for one particular school - St Constatine’s.

The international school in Arusha has excelled by seeing its entire graduating year achieve strong results in the finals, a rare and commendable feat.

Berend Timmer, one of the students at the school emerged top of the class by achieving the highest grades.

A scholar, a sportsman and an A star winner, Berend is not one to shirk the responsibilities of school. Studying in the British system of educational A-levels requires dedication and application for students to be able to graduate in all subjects; some do not make the grade.

For Berend, a student at St Constantine’s International School in Arusha, graduating top of his class with strong passes in all subjects made him attain the highly sought-after A star.

Berend, born in Netherlands – son of Andre Timmer and Marjolein de Rooij, is advancing his exceptional maths and science results through his acceptance into the largest and oldest Dutch public technological university, located in Delft, Netherlands - the University of Technology - ranked as one of the top 20 best universities for engineering and technology worldwide.


This week marks the beginning of his new career path into engineering after last week’s orientation in Holland. Influenced by the family trend, Berend follows both his parents and grandparents who are all engineers!

“My advice to the students who follow me is “study like your life depends on it, which it kind of does, but don’t forget to enjoy and cherish the final moments with your friends,” says Berend.

The seven private, non-charity schools in Arusha, that go through to Year 13, have a range of affiliations, from the Cambridge International curriculum through to the International Baccalaureate. While some have academic entrance tests, others concentrate more on sport, or nurturing a well-rounded adult who will excel in future endeavours.

It is therefore not common for the schools to have a 100 per cent pass rate for all graduating students, as achieved by St Constantine’s this year.

There is a friendly rivalry, coupled with a good working relationship, between the schools with examples such as Braeburn International School inviting others to their fireworks, and UWC Arusha inviting fellow schools to their international Day. While St Constantine’s champions its Round Square founding principles of Internationalism, Democracy, Environmentalism, Adventure, Leadership and Service; Braeburn recently announced its association with the Duke of Edinburgh’s International award. Both schools include senior students climbing Africa’s tallest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro as part of their character-building activities.

On arriving in Tanzania four and a half years ago – which Berend’s father describes as a beautiful, safe, friendly country - he set about finding a school which they felt offered an international flavour with a true African environment, high academic and sporting achievements, as well as character building electives – the triple crown - all at a reasonable price.

“Having come from Holland where education is free,” Mr Timmer said, “we had to be realistic in what portion of our income was to be invested in our children’s education, “while still wanting the best results for them as well-rounded individuals.”

Of the private schools for which they were eligible, they chose St Constantine’s International School, despite it being a 30-minute drive from home every morning. The only Round Square School in Tanzania, it propounds the benefits of the IDEALS outside of the classroom, as well as during academic study.

“Obviously, we are very pleased with our choice,” Mr Timmer said, “and we are happy that our other children – Tooske, 14 years and Govert, 16 years – are also studying there.”

A grounded student who looks into the future with a realistic trajectory, Berend sees himself graduating university and advancing as a technician in a multi-national tech company, learning more as he gains the experience he needs for his own aspirations.

“When we travelled to Tanzania, we were ready for the adventure,” said Mr Timmer. “We chased our dream of establishing our own business (a boutique hotel Arusha Villa, now a popular landmark in their adopted city) and bringing our children up in a truly international environment. We are happy that Berend too will forge his own path, whatever that might be. I believe life takes you where it takes you,” he said.

The couple have invested heavily in their new home and were anxious that Berend too understood the importance of being one with his fellow students. Berend describes his senior year as “pretty darn awesome”.

“We aim to have a happy, respectful, school,” said St Constantine’s Headmaster, Tony Macfadyen. “At the centre of school life are our Round Square IDEALS, allied to appropriate challenges, so pupils maximise their potential”.

“As well, we are a part of the Cambridge International Organisation through which we utilise the world-renowned Cambridge syllabus, examination courses and assessment points to provide students with a modern, rigorous, exciting education. We are proud of the improvement in our overall number of passes and obviously delighted that every single graduating student passed this year. It is a milestone for the school.”

“The Cambridge curriculum for A-levels is a rigorous, engaging, internationally respected two-year course involving a range of topics, each of which requires perseverance, inquisitiveness and critical thinking,” said Mr Macfadyen. “For our entire graduating year to pass in all their chosen subjects, especially with many higher grades such as Berend’s, is extremely rewarding for students and teachers alike.”

“My favourite quote,” says Berend, is “Tell me and I will forget, Teach me and I will remember, Involve me and I will understand.” I believe St Constantine’s ensured I was fully involved.”

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects are a great part of the school’s academic path.

“Through their lessons our students develop an increased awareness of the relevance and significance of science and maths in today’s world and their social, economic and environmental applications and implications locally in Africa and beyond,” said mathematics teacher Caroline Themi, who assisted Berend in achieving his A star for maths.

Through the Round Square programme students gain experience through attending conferences, exchange programmes and GAP student programmes at international schools globally.

“Vitally, our school is built on the notion that pupils develop a strong self-concept because they are challenged appropriately, every day. This also means pupils learn to become resilient, they persist in the face of difficulty (to achieve success) and they learn from their mistakes. In so doing, they are prepared for life as twenty-first century learners and global citizens,” said Mr Macfadyen.

Other successful graduates include Sabrina Moshy – voted by her classmates as the most likely to end world poverty – who was awarded King Constantine’s Award for the student who has embraced all the IDEALS; and Karl Mbugua, awarded the Nolan Kishe Award for ambition, innovation and community service. This award is in memory of a student who passed away suddenly while playing sport and coincidently, Karl sees his future as a doctor working internationally to prevent such deaths, despite his creative headlines in the school drama programme. Karl’s favourite quote, which he attributes with getting him through the difficulties of his final year, is from Jim Rohn – “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.”