Giving a child the best in life is every parent’s dream but achieving this comes with amongst other things quality education. Obviously, a good school is the necessary tool for cementing a strong foundation for any child.

Unfortunately, because of the numerous financial obligations many parents cannot sustain timely school fees payments if at all, and struggle to send and keep their children in school.

Currently, the Kenyan primary education is free up to 8th grade but still regular school attendance is a challenge mainly due to low family incomes. The government requires families to share the costs at secondary school level, which has significant negative consequences for students from poor families. For instance, over 1.2 million children of school-going age are out of school and involved in practices such as child labour to supplement family income. There is also a 27% primary school dropout rate related to poverty issues. The transition rate from primary to secondary schools is at an all time low. Only 50% of pupils completing standard 8th grade proceed to secondary school due to lack of school fees or insufficient facilities. This situation is distressing and has long-term consequences, such as teen-age pregnancies and low earning potential. 

Scholarships help some students, however, they are limited only to a few. There are many cases in which children work after school hours to support their families, so they can raise the money for school fees. They are often as young as only  13-14 years old. Unfortunately it is quite common to find young people walking long distances to find people who will help by giving work to help pay their fees – and also for daily needs such as shoes and toiletries. These extra challenges cause the drop-out rate for disadvantaged students to be particularly high.

Kenya struggles to improve an underfunded school system with school reforms that promise changes in overall structure and curriculum design. The increasing cost of education is pushing the global goal of “Education for All” (EFA) beyond the reach of more and more children from poor families, leading to a steady increase in the number of dropouts. 

Most of the problems within the education sector stem from the general increase in poverty levels and inequalities across the country. Although the enrolment trends have been higher in recent years, completion rates have consistently been below the half mark due to high dropout rates. Education is the most powerful weapon one can use to survive in the current millennium. For today’s generation, knowledge and communication skills are an absolute necessity. It is for this reason that governments try to provide their citizens with education, and Kenya is a no exception. If we consider education as a basic human need, society must put an emphasis on it. The ultimate success of Kenya’s education system will be measured by its ability to give equal access to all candidates and provide qualified skills into the labour market to drive the economy.

Maureen Ndeda, leadership team of Nehemiah International Kenya