Kenya Still Faces Challenges in Sending 100% of Students to High School

Kenya has long aimed to bring 100 percent of its primary students to high school.

Over one million Kenyan students finished their primary school education in 2020, and all are expected to attend high school, but many factors continue to hold these students back.

Many Kenyan parents are unable to pay for the school fees and many students must travel long distances just to get to their schools.

The government has helped solve some of these challenges through partnerships with private sector businesses for education funding and eradicating poverty by empowering local communities. Many tuition fees are also waived for secondary schools.

But parents still must pay for meals, transportation, uniforms and other things necessary for learning, and many Kenyan communities still have cultural traditions surrounding gender that create obstacles for girls trying to finish school.

Despite all that, The Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis found that the percentage of students attending secondary school after primary school has actually risen. In 2018, about 83 percent of students made the transition. In 2020, that number was 95 percent.

But the pandemic continues to create new challenges for Kenya in reaching its lofty goal of 100 percent.

In general, girls face steeper obstacles to attending school, and recent reports suggest that removing these obstacles will be crucial in Kenya sending all its students to high school.

Recent reports show:

  • Kenyan schools opened their doors again in January 2021, but 8 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls didn’t come back after the previous year, according to a report. In 2019, that number was just 5.1 percent for both boys and girls.
  • A study of nearly 400 rural adolescent girls in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda found that 34 percent had lost a parent or guardian to the pandemic, and about 70 percent were forced to make money as a result. Also, 86 percent didn’t have the money to return to school.
  • Another study of Covid-19 in Kenya concluded that older adolescent girls (15-19 years old) were less likely to engage in distance learning and less confident that they could go back to school. They were also more likely to experience depression than their younger peers (10-14 years).

Several nonprofits have tried to help the government reach their goal for 100 percent student attendance in high schools.

The Kenya Education Fund provides high school scholarships based on need and merit, and has kept 3,335 Kenyan students in school since 2002, according to their website. Their mission is “to provide economically disadvantaged students in Kenya with scholarships, support and educational resources for them to improve their lives and communities.”

The US-based nonprofit Kenya Connect offers many programs aimed at enhancing education in Kenya, especially in rural areas. “The ultimate goal is to provide access to educational and technology programs that might not be available to them because of where they live and that will allow them to succeed in the future,” according to their website.

WE Charity, which is based out of Canada, is a multinational organization that has focused much of its efforts on improving access to education in Kenya. To date, the nonprofit has built the Kisaruni Group of Schools, which includes an all-girls secondary school and an all-boys secondary school, providing increased access to high school for 13,000 Kenyan children.

While Kenya faces many challenges of reaching its goal of 100 percent high-school attendance, supporting these organizations will help the country ensure education for all its young people.

By Krima Desai
Multi-skilled journalist and writer with extensive print, broadcast, online and digital experience.