On Tuesday, September 12, around noon, Kelie Umutoniwase was at her grandmother’s home in Nyamasheke District, where she had gone to spend the holiday, when her mother called to break the news of her superb results in the O-Level national exams for the academic year 2022-2023. In Umutoniwase’s words, her face lit up with joy, astonishment, and excitement upon hearing the news. The 17-year-old ex-student of Fawe Girls School in Gasabo achieved an aggregate score of 54 out of 54, earning a distinction in all subjects, including Kinyarwanda, Chemistry, Biology and Health Science, Entrepreneurship, English, Physics, Geography and Environment, History and Citizenship, and Mathematics. ALSO READ: PLE, O-Level results: Girls outperform boys in national exams “As my mother was listening to the radio, she heard my name being mentioned among the best five performers. She couldn’t hold her joy, so she called me immediately,” she told The New Times. Umutoniwase was astonished, because although she revised her books extensively, and expected to pass, but never imagined she would top the rest. This, she believed, was because there were other students reading just as much, or even more. Reason for her success Umutoniwase explained that the school library was always open for candidates to go and revise, and the computer lab was accessible for anyone who wanted to carry out research. “I appreciate my classmates for the teamwork because we always shared information with each other after personal reading,” Umutoniwase stated. She thanked her teachers for finishing the syllabus in the second term, which allowed for additional time for revision. She also credited her success to the teachers being available on weekends to answer any questions. The former S3 student believes that her success was due to starting preparations for the national exams in the first term, taking numerous practice tests, and being inspired by her parents. “My parents always reminded me that I was responsible for my future, thus a reason to work hard, and it’s exactly what I did,” she added. Speaking to her mother, Julienne Mukayiranga, who appeared speechless and overcome with emotion about her child's performance, she mentioned that Umutoniwase’s success was anticipated, although they never imagined she would secure the top position in the entire country. “I expected her to be among the best five performers because she has always excelled in all her classes. She has either been in the first or second position,” Mukayiranga said. Mukayiranga praised her daughter for her efforts, acknowledging that she had sacrificed some of her sleep time to study extensively. She emphasised that those who are determined are the ones who get to enjoy the rewards of success. She also expressed her gratitude to Umutoniwase’s teachers who were present to assist learners during exam preparation, as well as her father who provided various forms of support, including financial and parental guidance. Umutoniwase’s message to fellow students is to do whatever it takes to concentrate on their goals. Future plans Umutoniwase, the eldest of four siblings, aspires to become a surgeon, a profession she grew passionate about after witnessing her sister's physical disability. Observing her sister’s difficulties in doing things for herself stirred her to pursue a profession focused on rescuing lives and providing crucial aid to those in greatest need. The teenager is hopeful that by pursuing a course in surgery, she will be able to perform operations on Rwandans who are unable to afford the expenses of surgery abroad. Her inspiration is the late Clarissa Harlowe Barton, also known as Clara Barton, who was a Civil War nurse, humanitarian and the founder of the American Red Cross, a non-profit humanitarian organisation that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education in the United States. “Reading about Barton’s work that saved lives, and her love to volunteer, is exactly what I want to do in Rwanda. Just as she left a legacy behind, that is what I anticipate to do. Life is more fulfilling when we use our skills, knowledge and efforts to help others and make an impact,” she explained. For A-Level, Umutoniwase will pursue a course in Software Programming and Embedded Systems at Rwanda Coding Academy, Nyabihu for three years. After completing Senior Six, she intends to pursue a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in order to fulfil her dream. In her free time, she enjoys reading and interacting with friends and family.