Report: More boys dropping out of school, millions unable to read

The cost of accessing education and the lack of assistive devices needed for learning lead to dropouts. [iStockphoto]

Details have emerged of how millions of children miss school.

More male students of school-going age are said to be dropping out compared to their female counterparts.

The trend also indicates that school-going children from low-income households are twice as likely to drop out of school as his/her counterparts in rich households.

The details are contained in a report dubbed ‘Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Assessments (FLANA)’ for children aged six to fifteen 15 years in the country.

The report further says that the majority of the children out of school come from households whose parents have no formal education.

It emerged that the cost of accessing education and the lack of assistive devices needed for learning lead to dropouts.

The report released on Thursday at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD),  finds that the high rate paints a gloomy picture of the government's effort to ensure basic education is accessible to all learners.

Usawa Agenda Executive Director Emmanuel Manyasa blamed the government for not taking action on the rising student dropout from schools.

“Even with concerted efforts have been mounted in the past by the government, more learners continue escaping from school. It is urgent we have missed the steps that we shouldn't have missed. We have to re-tress them to bring out learners on track,” he said.

He added: “Every passing day the future of millions of children is being compromised. With them the future of the country.”

Manyasa said education has in the past been perceived to be a preparation for employment, which has demoralised graduates who miss on employment. 

“If you make this in an economy where employment is rampant in Kenya then children see no value in education,” Manyasa said.

The survey was conducted between June and July last year involving 1.1 million learners from primary schools.

National Parents Association chairman Silas Obuhatsa blamed this on the high cost of accessing education in the country.

''The trend is worrying. The dropout can be attributed to the high fees charged for learners to access education. We are asking the government to re-examine the school fees levied to poor households,'' Obuhatsa said.

Secretary Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association, Irine Yiaille, blamed this on negligence.

''There has been an emphasis on girl child leaving boy child vulnerable. Let all refocus our energies on boy child enrollment'' she said.

The report uncovered that most learners go through the system without showing the ability to comprehend the work of the lower grades.

The children enrolled in private schools have better learning outcomes than those in public schools in both English literacy and numeracy.

“The odds for a learner in a private primary school to have better learning outcomes in English and numeracy are 45 per cent and 28 per cent respectively higher than those of a learner in a public primary school,” the FLANA Report reads in part.

Here, the majority of learners in private schools outshine their counterparts in public schools and meet expectations in both solving appropriate numeracy problems and reading the lower-grade language text.

“It was revealed that nationally, less than half of grade 4 learners meet expectations in both languages and arithmetic of a grade 3 worksheet with girls doing better than boys,” reads the report.

However, for the last three years, it has emerged that the majority of parents prefer enrolling their children in public schools.

Previous three years’ national examination outcomes revealed more than half of the candidates scored below a D plus grade.

Manyasa urged the government to highlight gaps that exist that make schools unable to deliver learning expectations.

"Are we using schools to marginalise the learners? We just bring them to grow and graduate them into society. We need to look at the gaps that exist in schools so that we fill them," he said.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Deputy Secretary General, Hesbon Otieno attributed this to the poor learning environment in schools.

''The very basic requirement that should be provided by the government and parents at home will always affect learners' performances,” Otieno said.

“We need to know what we are not giving to schools to make them enable adequate learning so at least children meet, and exceed expectations. They attract children in school affecting their performance.”

The report also pokes holes in the teacher staffing in schools saying the teacher-class ratio continues to decline even with the increasing learner population. 

This shows most students in schools go unattended to in schools even with government efforts to employ more teachers.

Otieno attributed the teacher shortage to the current poor performance in schools.

“Teachers shortage has been a contributing factor. We should look at norms of staffing of schools such that we can shift from teacher-pupil ratio to teacher-class ratio,” he said.

He said necessary learning tools for Early Childhood Development Education teachers are essential for a good foundation.

“What form of assessment do we bring out so that the issue of literacy and numeracy is brought on board,” he said.

Otieno said teachers posted to the ASAL areas decline transfers in fear of their security.

The data also shows an overwhelming gender imbalance in public primary school leadership with the majority of schools' Boards of Management chairpersons were men which continue rising.

“Women teach in the primary schools, but men manage the schools. The numbers, competency and motivation of teachers and school managers are critical factors for the performance of schools in national exams,” the report notes.

The parents also interviewed want the cost of the new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) to be lowered.

Seven (7) counties with the largest percentage of out-of-school children are all in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) region with Mandera County leading in the percentage of children out of school.

Other counties include Marsabit, Turkana, Samburu, West Pokot, Tana River and Wajir.

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