The Social Pillar in Vision 2030 singles out education and training as the vehicle that will drive Kenya into becoming a middle-income economy. The fact that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration has also prioritised manufacturing, housing, food security and universal health care as its core pillars makes this more strategic.
And this, perhaps, explains why the pertinent question raised by the 2012 task force report on the re-alignment of the education sector to the Constitution of Kenya and attendant challenges was: Is the Kenyan education system and its institutions and programmes fit for the purpose?’’
One of the critical issues that have bedevilled the education sector in Kenya has been ensuring total access across the board where the 2017 Economic survey shows that secondary schools total enrollment rose by 6.3 per cent to 2.7 million in 2016 while total enrollment in primary schools rose by 2.0 per cent from 10.1 million in 2015 to 10.3 million in 2016.
The introduction of free day public secondary schooling in Kenya has ushered in a new era. The bold step will help improve on transition rates to a near 100 per cent and deal with perennial issues of wastage and dropout in the education system.
Right to education
Moreover, under Kenya’s constitution, every child has a right to free and compulsory basic education. It is therefore mandatory for any parent who is a Kenyan or whose child resides in the country to enroll them for primary and secondary education, according to the Basic Education Act of 2013.
For starters, Kenya has 8,592 public secondary schools and a further 1,350 are private, according to the 2017 Economic Survey. Half of these schools are boarding or institutions with a boarding wing.
The survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics puts the total secondary school enrollment in 2016 at 2.72 million students, up from 2.56 million in 2015. The schooling profiles of 2014, 2015 and 2016 show that retention of students at secondary level of education greatly improved. This can partly be attributed to the continued implementation of Free Day Secondary Education (FDSE) and the disbursements of bursaries from the National and County Governments; and the Constituency Development Fund.
Good leadership and committed teachers count in all our schools. The Ministry and all stakeholders concerned must move to ensure that school leadership across the country is consistent with national aspirations and goals.
If and when all teachers work in harmony with school leadership, a lot can be achieved and student’s potential realized. This also means that the schools take full advantage of the new technology to make decisions and the work of teachers easier. This is exactly what we do in every other sector of society, why shouldn’t we do it in education?
Second, restoring safety and discipline and backing up teachers who are determined to maintain discipline in classrooms and in the school corridors can be very important. Setting high expectations in schools for teachers with a solid academic curriculum and determined efforts by schools and the TSC to recruit and retain high quality teachers can make a big difference.
Teacher quality matters a lot in the overall product from our schools. Rewarding such teachers in important for sustainability in the long run to maintain a culture of learning in any school. Support from parents and the surrounding community matters even more.
Weak financial management systems across schools must be addressed. From reports coming out of schools every year, lack of transparency, predictability of funding and understanding of the flow of resources and information within and across the system resulting in misappropriation of funds is still an issue. As a country, we need to improve on the collection, management and use of planning and financial information in our school system.
What this means is that all players in the education sector must work together not only to ensure that the programme works, but to collectively achieve our vision as a country.
Dr Mogambi, a Development and Social Change expert, teaches at the University of Nairobi. hmogambi @ yahoo.co.uk