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One million children yet to taste fruits of free primary education

By Standard Team | October 12th 2016

At least one million children are still out of primary school although education is free in Kenya, the Government has said.

Most of those still out of school are girls mainly due to early marriages, HIV/AIDs and lack of sanitary towels.

"Kenya has nearly attained national gender parity in enrolment at primary level but close scrutiny reveals serious gender disparities between regions with regard to access, retention, completion, performance and transition," said Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i.

He said despite the remarkable increase in access at both primary and secondary, statistics indicate over one million children are still out of school, especially at the primary level.

"Gender disparities are more pronounced in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands, urban pockets of poverty and urban slums with the girl child being the most affected," said Matiang'i.

girls and boys

"The parity index between girls and boys increased from 0.95 in 2009 to 1.05 in 2014. Thus there were more boys than girls at the beginning of the period, which changed to having more girls than boys in 2014," said the CS who spoke in Nairobi yesterday during celebrations to mark the International Day of the Girl Child.

In primary education, the parity index improved over that period but did not get to equality by 2014. Equality is yet to be achieved even today.

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"At the secondary level, gender equality is still low at 0.92 despite some improvement in parity index, thus there are fewer girls than boys in secondary schools," said Matiang'i.

Matiang'i said lack of sanitary pads is one of the reasons girls miss school. This has also contributed to poor performance among the upper primary pupils between Standard Five and Eight.

It is against this backdrop that the Government increased allocation for the sanitary towels programme from Sh240 million in 2012 to Sh400 in 2015.

"Absenteeism may not end any time soon unless measures are taken to address the sanitary towels problem. Sustainable provision of sanitary towels will give girls dignity, improve hygiene, reduce absenteeism and school drop-out rates, therefore improving their grades," the CS said.

Matiang'i said the Government desires to provide equal access to education to boys and girls irrespective of their socio-economic status.

This came as Form Two students at Nyamira Girls in Bondo sub-county called for empowerment of girls as a key strategy to addressing leadership gaps in the public sector.

key decisions

Daisy Ayot, who for about two hours acted as Siaya County Assembly Speaker in a ceremony to mark the day of the girl child, said she desires to see more women in positions of leadership, making key decisions.

Fifteen-year-old Ayot, who wants to be an aeronautical engineer, rode in the Speaker's car, put on his gown, used his seat and even got an opportunity to inspect a guard of honour.

For 15 minutes, she received guests in the Speaker's office and even made decisions aimed at benefiting girls.

"It was great fun taking over as the Speaker of a county assembly and I experienced what it feels to be in leadership," said Ayot.

"From the experience I got, I  believe I can make it in any leadership position," she told The Standard yesterday.

Speaker George Okode encouraged girls to develop a passion and confidence to serve in public offices. Ayot was among four girls from the county who were trained on leadership.

The came as an NGO, Uwezo Kenya, called on players to work together to stop girls from dropping out of school.

Uwezo Kenya's Country manager Emmanuel Manyasa said while many strides had been made to improve girls' lives, many still did not make it to tertiary institutions.

"The girls start out so well. In fact, more girls than boys enrol in lower classes," Munyasa said, noting that girls later tend to drop out of school.

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