Nevertheless, despite the highlighted regional disparities, Uwezo’s ranking index shows there are significant differences in test results between districts within individual countries. Of the 320 sampled districts in the region, Kenya’s 21 districts led the pack. The best ten performing districts included Thika West, Kikuyu, Nairobi East, Nyeri South, Gatanga, Kirinyaga, Kajiado North, Imenti South, Ruiru and Gatundu. Thika West had a top mean score of 92.1 per cent while Gatundu ranked tenth with a mean of 85.1 per cent.
The best 10 performing districts in Tanzania obtained a mean score of between 80.2 per cent and 66.3 per cent. In Uganda, the best performing districts had a mean score of between 69.3 per cent and 46.7 per cent.
However, the worst 10 performing districts in the region were all from Uganda. Kenya’s worst performing districts included Samburu North, Tana Delta, Turkana South. Lagdera, Wajir East, Wajir West, Wajir North, Ijara, Turkana Central and Samburu East with a mean of between 41.3 and 26.5 per cent.
Girls outshine boys
However, despite the often highlighted gender disparities in East Africa, the study says girls emerged on top in the Standard Two level tests.
“In fact, on average, girls slightly outperformed boys in all countries and these trends were constant for both literacy and numeracy test scores,” it says.
Sadly, the report is categorical that in some of the worst performing districts, children faithfully attend school, even when they have little to show for it. Nonetheless, the report is an eye pointer of specific failure in each country.
For instance, whereas Kenya has some of the best performing districts in the region, the gap between its best and worst performing districts is quite large, indicating greater disparities in educational achievement than anywhere else in East Africa. Most of the poorly performing districts in Kenya are stacked in arid areas in the Rift Valley, North Eastern and at the Coast.
However, one emerging common strand for poor academic performance is poverty. According to the study, children from socio-economically disadvantaged groups performed worse on tests at all ages, a trend that suggested that inequality in educational opportunity was persistent. Researchers found that higher income households provided adequate learning materials and were putting fewer demands on children to engage in income-earning activities.
On average, the learning disadvantage of coming from a poor household, compared to coming from a non-poor household was found to be equivalent to about two years. For instance, at age 10, the pass rate among the non-poor is twice that of the poor and three times that of children from extreme poor households,” says the report.
The Big worry
Despite the conclusions one is about to make on Uwezo findings, the report shows commitments to public education for all aside, the reality is that opportunity to develop skills is highly unequal across East Africa. Even then, the thorniest issue to worry about is why children in the region are not learning enough or taking too long to learn.