With a total population of over 43 million, Kenya is the biggest and most advanced economy in the east and central Africa. It is well-known for its natural resource and the vast variety of wildlife, which contribute a large proportion to Kenya’s GDP in agricultural and service sectors. It’s prosperous capital Nairobi is also given the name “East African Paris”. But behind the misleading impression of affluence left by a minority of urban population, Kenya is still a poor developing country with half of the population living in total poverty.
Even though with a GINI index of 42. which is only medium, the economic status inequality of Kenyans is relatively high: The rich has a condo with four private cars and two maids while the poor in shabby clothes are living in slums just two miles away. The economy of the country also leads to problems in the education sector in Kenya. The objectives of this memo is to identify three most important issues that may be challenges for Kenyan Government and Kenyan education sector, and come up with potential solutions and strategies to address them. 1, Educational inequality between urban and rural areas
There’s been a significant educational inequality between urban and rural Kenya. From the data provided by “Exploring Kenyan Education” site, School Location Density (2007), most schools distributes around big cities in the southern and southwestern Kenya where the majority of the population lives in. These cities includes Nairobi the Capital, Nakuru, Kericho, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kakamega, Meru and Mombasa. Since the school density does not show any problems because it follows the demography theory, but the enrollment rate and the educational investment may tell a part of the story.
In big cities like Nairobi, the gross enrollment rate of primary education is as high as 103% and the net enrollment rate is 91% (2009). But as of northeastern and northwestern Kenya the ratio is as low as 35% or even 25%. Even though the primary education is free and uniform in Kenya, there are still extra costs. One that blocks the way of education for children is the school uniform. Students drop out of schools simply because they don’t have school uniform, the situation is even worse in those tribe territories and extreme poor areas. The school uniform costs almost a thousand Ksh that many families cannot afford.
Even though there has been official regulation noting that no student ought to be turned away for not having uniform, uniform is such an ineradicable “culture” in Kenya schools that either schools or parents keep students away from school for not having schools uniforms. Lacking of resources becomes another. Lacking of sufficient textbooks and necessary stationaries makes students in rural areas hard to study. Students normally depend on what their teachers can provide to them and most of the time a textbook is shared by two plus students.
Even there are articles saying lacking of teachers is another problem, but according to the data by Kenya Open Data, the Pupil-Teacher Ratio in rural areas is not significantly higher than that is in developed area) -Possible solutions Providing free school uniforms targeting economically challenged students (application by student or their parents). Education ministry should also take responsibility to make sure every single student can have the textbooks they need. Unified and organized studying necessities delivery should be arranged at the start of each semester. 2, Primary-to Secondary Bottleneck
The primary education in Kenya is free and an average of over 90% of eligible school-age children are enrolled into primary schools, but the net enrollment rate only ranges from 3%-50%, that means even in the best conditioned area, nearly half of the students quit studying at the age of 15. Tuition Fees remains the largest barrier for going secondary school. Data shows that a primary student cost around 3,000 Ksh (32 USD) per household per year (2005), but surges to 25,000 Ksh (270 USD) for secondary education, which accounts for more than half of Annual income per household.
Despite government subsidies for secondary schools, some national and top provincial schools charge fees as high as 73,600 Ksh for one year. Such excessive education expense may be totally fine for students from privileged families, but for kids from middle class or poor families who fight all the way to those schools, that becomes a disaster. The other factor that creates the bottleneck is the poor education quality in most of the public primary schools. Primary school students need to reach over 250 points in KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) to be qualified to continue secondary education.
There are better teachers teaching in private schools and students are receiving “elite” education. 77 percent of private primary school students (2007) score over 250 compared to only 45 percent among public school students. This really reveals the poor teaching quality which fails students in public schools, thus most economic privileged families send their children to private schools. -Possible solutions: More government subsidies – Though the secondary education receives governmental subsidies, more subsidies are needed to help those students with economical difficulties.
Document students who need tuition aid and set up foundation targeting those students. Thus the resource can be concentrated to those in need. Further more, more money should be invested for better teachers, better infrastructures in public schools. Strengthen subsidy usage supervision – Kenyan Ministry of Education spends more than 10,000Ksh per secondary student annually. This amount of money is controlled by schools instead of directly by the students, and the tuition gets even higher each year.
Many secondary schools charges suggested annual tuition standard by MOE for only one semester, and most of them cannot explain the subsidies usage. Having government nominated supervisor sent to schools regularly to make sure the subsidies are in proper use would be a potential solution. Heath problems that contribute to the dropout and poor education quality Health problem has been a huge challenge for students in Kenya and the country’s heath system has been always in a difficult time trying to provide accessible heath care for its population.
Poor nutrition, underweight, intestinal worms, malaria, HIV, unexpected early pregnancies, etc. have greatly influenced students’ academic performance. In some areas such as Naivasha and Thika, own illness/disability becomes the biggest reason for not attending school. The ratio may be as high as over 70% and some time reaches over 90%. Also, early pregnancy is also a main contributor to the high dropout rate among girls. -Possible solution School heath program: a school based heath system should be set up to secure students’ health condition.
Since families may not be able to provide enough food supply especially for those poor families, government should help schools provide at least one meal per day to ensure students’ nutrition supplement. Also, 3. 6 million children were dewormed in 2009 and continuing implementing deworming program has been proved to be an effective way to increase attendance. Then schools should also take responsibilities for sex knowledge education which most children could not receive at home.
Courtney from Study Moose
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