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Kenya: Right to education

Summary & Comment: This article was produced in Toronto, Canada, by Joseph Mulongo, a teacher in Kenya and presently a graduate student in theology at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. It was a discussion paper at the Kenya Working Group on Human Rights of the (Canadian) Inter-Church Coalition on Africa From the point of view of the Right to Education as listed by the U.N as one among Social Rights, this paper describes the current situation in the schools, analyses root causes of rights, failures, and outlines the shortcomings of the Kenyan government in providing for this Right for all children.

Author: Joseph Mulongo Date Written: 1 March 2001
Primary Category: Eastern Region Document Origin: ICCAF
Secondary Category: Kenya Source URL: http://africafiles.org
Key Words: Kenya, Social Right, Right to education

Printable Version

Kenya: Right to education

Education is a basic right for human beings. There are so many factors that have rendered this right to be a privilege. Eighty five per cent of the factors are human factors that are avoidable. The rest could be attributed to natural causes. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that mechanisms are in place to achieve this valuable commodity for everyone at the right time and with a good quality. The issue of education becoming limited to those that can afford it is a sorry story. The violation of the right to education in Kenya cannot be singled out as unique but falls among myriad human rights violations in Kenya.

It always takes a long time for the Government to acknowledge that there is a problem. There is a government attitude of immunity to the problems that face the country. There is a feeling of contentment on the part of the government because of having "done much" for its citizens, even to the extent that it feels people should thank it, praise and support whatever policy comes up without criticism. This kind of attitude is what lies at the base of political differences on the one hand between the Government and the opposition party, and on the other within the Government and its critics in the ruling party. It is in this context that the problems facing education in the Country have to be understood.

Many government resources are directed towards wooing people to accept the prescriptions of the ruling party. Those that have watched this trend keenly have found out that accepting everything the ruling party is doing is disastrous not only to their own conscience but to citizens at large. One result has been the shift to multiparty democracy in the country.   It is to be acknowledged that indeed there has been expansion in the number of schools, both primary and secondary. But the enrollment every year increases at a faster rate than the rate of building new schools. There are many places where schools are very far away, so students have to walk long distances. Where such a situation exists many young children cannot walk all the way to school and back.

There are confusing and conflicting education policies which make the problems facing education complex. Since Kenya got independence in 1963, many of the commissions that were carried out to examine the system and make recommendations for quality education have been barely evaluated, let alone implemented. As examples there have been the Ominde Report, the Gachathi Report, the Mackey Report, and the recent one, the Koech commission, of which the report has become politicized.

The disturbing thing is that all the commissions were formed after realizing a problem and if the report is not implemented then a problem is added upon a problem. This technique is very much favored by the Government. Normally the commissions only tend to restore confidence of the people that Government is solving the problem. They are used for political reasons and not for genuinely problem-solving.

The Ominde Report recommended free universal primary education in Kenya. It is surprising that the Minister for Education is talking now of this being achieved by the year 2005. History suggests that the Government has seldom shown commitment to implementing policies. It implies that achieving this will depend on whether the Constitutional reform process will have gone through, how Kenya will be after the general elections of 2002 and the economic status of the country at that time.

Regarding universal primary education, The Daily Nation of Monday January 8, 2001 observes; "About 400,000 pupils who entered Standard One in 1993 did not reach Standard Eight in 2000. And since only 218,946 who sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination will join Form One that means that about 700,000 children had their academic life terminated at or before Standard Eight.

"Statistics show that 918,654 pupils were enrolled in Standard One in 1993, 481, of whom 481,111 sat the exam last year. [Only 218,000 passed the exam]. This means that before the eighth year, 437,489 children had dropped out of school system. " Cumulatively, therefore, education for 76 per cent of the group ended at the primary school level. Put differently, only 24 per cent of the cohort will get access to secondary education. "Things are worse at the lower levels where attrition is severe. Those leaving school before reaching Standard Eight are hardly in their teens. They have not developed the cognitive and effective skills for life survival. Indeed, this is a scenario well known in education circles

"Though it is stated that primary education is free, this is far from the truth of the matter on the ground. Parents do pay a lot of money levied by school management committees . . . this money is not audited and normally the total amount for the year is not specified.

"Inadequate educational teaching and learning resources are an obstacle to right to education. Textbooks are expensive and keep on changing year after year. Some schools have virtually nothing that can be defined as even minimum resources.

"The generally low morale and lack of confidence in the system of education poses a problem to education in Kenya. There are tendencies to hopelessness coming from the system of education . . . . It has produced a growing number of graduates that are unemployed who are not yet equipped for the labor market.

"There is an acute shortage of teachers in the country. It is estimated that the country lacks 14,000 teachers in both primary and secondary. The problem has been occasioned by retirement, the ban on employing (additional) teachers by the government, death caused by Aids and imbalance in staffing caused by Teachers Service Commission as a result of irregular transfer of teachers.

"The recent lifting of the ban on employment of teachers is welcome but it is far from being real due to the poor economic situation prevailing in the country. The country's lack of commitment to the fulfillment of the conditions of the IMF has led to the latter withholding further release of funds, which were earmarked (for education) in the current budget.

"This will continue to hamper effective implementation of employing teachers in this year".

The Daily Nation of Monday, February 5 2001 reports further on the situation and supply of teachers; "As it were, the Government's change of heart on the teacher employment resulted from the reality that the education sector was headed for the doldrums. Enrollment figures are falling and educational standards are declining as the staff shortage bites.

`While that is laudable, it adds a heavier education burden on the parents and contributes significantly to school dropouts,' he said. `Statistics from the recently released national census show that some 4.2 million eligible children are out of school, representing about 40 per cent of the youth.

"Mr. Musyoka admits that the country needs some 10,400 teachers to meet the deficit in schools. Primary schools need about 6000 teachers while secondary about 5000. But this is a conservative figure. The deficit could be in the range of 14,000. Worst hit are mathematics, sciences, and languages at the secondary level, where up to 4,9000 teachers are needed."

Poverty is a big factor militating against the provision of education. When a choice has to made between education and food the latter is priority. The number of cases of children dropping out of school has increased in the country due the fact that parents cannot afford the cost of educational demands together with dealing with satisfying other basic needs. The net result has been the increase of the number of street children in virtually every town in the country.

The situation has been compounded by the escalating death from the pandemic Aids. The effect of the disease is beyond measure in terms of economic impact. Corruption is also an important factor in reducing the right to education.

Mismanagement, embezzlement of funds, lack of transparency in the government have a big impact on the provision of basic educational needs-still a dream in our country.

Famine as a result of drought has made learning in North Eastern Province to come to a standstill in many schools. The situation forced parents to move and hence withdraw their children from school. The situation has been made worse by insecurity in this region and in the Kerio Valley.

Perennial floods affect badly learning in the schools around Lake Victoria. This term many schools were flooded and learning had to come to a stand still. No strategic measures have been undertaken and yet every year floods cause problems resulting in learning being interrupted.

The political unrest and clamor for constitution reform has dragged on for so long it has drawn away and sidetracked attention from providing better education.

At the university level the right to education is hampered by low government funding, lack of research, student unrest, irrelevant curriculum, increased enrollment, gender disparity, limited access and lack of relevant materials for teaching and learning.

Ends here.

Printable Version

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s) and not do necessarily reflect the views of the AfricaFiles' editors and network members. They are included in our material as a reflection of a diversity of views and a variety of issues. Material written specifically for AfricaFiles may be edited for length, clarity or inaccuracies.

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