Government should not claw back gains made in education

Grade Seven pupils of Fesbeth Academy-Kakamega washing clothes during their Home Science CBC assessment test that is being conducted by Knec on July 19, 2023. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

Heads of State and government of the African Union assembled in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in May 2013 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity, now called African Union.

To realise ongoing structural transformations; reduction in conflicts, renewed economic growth and social progress, people-centred development, gender equality and youth empowerment, among others, the countries set an ambitious 50-year agenda dubbed Agenda 2063.

Away from creating a dream for the continent, Agenda 2063 was also meant to identify flagship programmes that could boost Africa’s economic growth and development and lead to rapid transformation of the continent. The agenda also identified key activities to be undertaken in periodic phases to ensure that both quantitative and qualitative transformational outcomes are realised.

Key on the list of activities that to help realise Agenda 2063 was a focus on the education curriculum being offered to the growing young population on the continent.

The countries realised that education plays a fundamental role in spurring political, economic and social transformation. They therefore recommended that African countries consider offering curricula that is responsive to the existing challenges with the aim of meeting world market expectations.

Agenda 2063 is in agreement with the Sustainable Development Goals, which are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals intended to transform the world. The SDGs, agreed upon by 193 countries in September 2015, strive for the universal reduction of climate change and poverty, and the improvement of education, health, and economic growth.

Goal 4 speaks to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and the promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all. Breaking it down a bit further, this goal addresses two distinct but inseparable trouble spots affecting education around the world today: Access and quality. Today, according to, Global Citizen, 2015, about 60 million children aren't in school for all kinds of reasons.

In addition, 781 million illiterate adults and all the college-age children who can't afford to continue their studies. It's clear that achieving Goal 4 starts with improving access to education in all its forms. 

Taking children to school is half the battle; what they learn their matters. That's why quality is so clearly emphasised in the wording of Goal 4. Quality means implementing effective curricula and measuring outcomes. It also means providing students with facilities and resources, like the Internet to help them keep pace with the modern world, (UNICEF, 2018). 

The question then is, where is Kenya in this conversation? Kenya has done commendably well in trying to address both the SDG Goal 4 on education and Africa’s Agenda 2063 through increasing the budgetary allocation to the education sector year after year.

The 2022/2023 budget had Sh544.4 billion, which was improved in the 2023/2024 financial year to Sh628.6 billion. The money was used in developing infrastructure in both primary and secondary public learning institutions to address the 100 per cent government policy on transition. The country has also, through the Kenya Kwanza Education charter, employed over 56,000 teachers on both permanent and pensionable terms and contracts to address teacher shortage and enhance quality teaching and learning.

Above all, in response to the changing times, the government reviewed the education curriculum from the 8.4.4 system to the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) in 2017. The current curriculum is biased towards providing competencies and morals that resonate with the demands of society, the industrial revolution and the labour market.

Therefore, Kenya is headed to the right direction in terms of responding to changing times, regional, continental and global arrangements and conventions and participating in the global arena in contemporary discourse.

It is, however, worrying that the same government is undermining its own progress by pulling down the gains it has made in ensuring it provides access to quality teaching and learning. Withdrawing EDU-AFYA has affected learning in secondary schools. Most learners leave school to seek medication. This affects performance at the end of the year.

Further, communication by Principal Secretary of Education in March 2024 regarding the government's intention to reduce capitation from Sh22,000 to Sh17,000 for each learner was a shocker.

This followed complaints from heads of schools on the irregular release of capitation in violation of the earlier agreement of the 50:30:20 model. Running programmes has become difficult since heads cannot meet school financial obligations. Consumer commodity prices are high and with the reduced capitation, one can only expect things to worsen.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers’ opinion is that the government should consider returning EDU-AFYA so that learners can continue to benefit and stay in school. The government should reduce the budgets of other departments to address shortages within its operations instead of interfering with education which is already in dire need of resources. The journey to realising Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the SDG 4 demands that countries, Kenya included, be consistent in their programmes.