Kenya’s government says it is committed to ensuring that no child is left behind when it comes to education.
Articles 43(f) and 53(1) (b) of the Kenyan Constitution provide for the right to education and the right to free and compulsory basic education, respectively.
Despite the good laws and or promises by consecutive leaderships, the goal for universal education is still far from being achieved. As it is, President Uhuru Kenyatta has made lofty promises regarding Education For All (EFA) but much is yet to be done.
The situation on unfulfilled promises is bad such that the international community is noticing even having famous personalities push the government to act. Girls have borne the brunt of being left behind when it comes to education leading to stagnation in the advancement of women’s rights.
American artist, Selena Gomez, who was in Kenya towards the end of last year has challenged President Kenyatta to honour the promises he made during the Global Festival in South Africa in 2018 where he promised to increase the education budget from 17% to 30%.
In a video posted online, Gomez says, “Countless students in Kenya are not receiving quality education including the 59% who are not going to school. As a result, young people across the country and particularly the poorest and the most marginalised are missing out on critical opportunities.”
In the National Education Sector Strategic Plan 2018 – 2022, the government has committed to implementing international and regional commitments related to education like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) among others.
But financial challenges abound.
From the get go, the nature of care and learning in ECD/pre-school centres is not well developed to respond even to the needs of children aged 3-5 who attend those centres. Teaching is focused on literacy and numeracy skills meant for early primary education centres – partly due to pressure from parents, who view ECD as early schooling, notes a report by the World Bank.
In addition, the cost of ECD services in Kenya remains one of the main barriers to accessing quality ECDE services. ECDE in Kenya is not free and costs of access have been left to parents. The sub-sector is poorly financed – especially by the government, and it is even not easy to quantify both public and private spending on this sub-sector. There is no national law and policy establishing a minimum level of funding for ECD and there are no mechanisms to coordinate budgeting across sectors responsible for child development.
Currently, county governments employ teachers but parents are required, in turn, to pay fees for personal school supplies, uniform, meals, transport, and medical services. The devolution of ECDE to county government was not accompanied by resource allocation.
Many parents end up not taking their children to ECD but rather wait until children are ready for Class One, which is free in public schools. Given the importance of ECD, this is a huge missed opportunity.
The plan notes that even though tuition fees have been abolished in primary schools, the existence of cost-sharing between government and households cannot be ignored. Families are expected to still take care of some small costs (uniforms, transport, meals, etc.) which when cumulated, could be a heavy burden to families in the first socio-economic class. In secondary education, the government provides subsidies to cover tuition and operations in day secondary schools.
Boarding schools receive similar funding but on top, parents meet the boarding costs.
With these financial demands, education then becomes a preserve of the well to do locking out the majority poor.
As Kenya’s uneducated millions continue in a world blacked out of knowledge, the country will take longer to achieve its development goals unless all Kenyans can have unfettered access to quality education from formative years to when they join the job market.
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