Free for All
The idea that all children should have access to free, primary-age schooling has been widely accepted in Kenya since the country first gained independence from Britain in 1963. Promises to make good on that pledge came and went, but in 2003, a reform government led by newly elected President Mwai Kibaki instituted universal education and began paying for textbooks and other supplies once covered by fees. Still, education beyond the primary level is far from universal, and teacher shortages, poverty, and the AIDS epidemic pose ongoing challenges. The following items offer a brief snapshot of where things stand.
• Covering grades 1-8, primary education has been free since 2003, when the number of students rose by 1.5 million. Current enrollment in the nation’s 18,000 primary schools is 7.2 million. Almost all children now start school, according to World Bank figures, although the Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology reports that fewer than half complete the primary level.
• Fewer than half of the children who complete primary school move on to one of the nation’s roughly 3,900 secondary schools, according to the Kenya education ministry and regional education officials. Parents pay fees for secondary school, covering grades 9-12, though scholarships are available.
• Kenya has six public universities and about 20 public teacher-training colleges, which educate the majority of students in postsecondary degree or certificate programs.
• Adult literacy is high for sub-Saharan Africa, with about 85 percent of those older than 15 able to read, according to World Bank statistics.
• Some 2.2 million Kenyans are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Some 1.7 million children have been orphaned, roughly 40 percent by AIDS, according to UNICEF. By 2010, the number of orphans is projected to rise to 1.9 million.
Vol. 17, Issue 01, Page 39Published in Print: September 1, 2005, as Free for All