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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Kenya: The Youth, Education, and Poverty

Despite free primary school education in Kenya, the future and the lifeline of children still needs worldwide attention.
Written by: Julie Cao
In Kenya, many children and their family members are devastated by poverty and the lack of quality education. Why? How can such an issue be resolved?
For five years, Kenyan children have been deprived of continued education. In February 2015, the issue further escalated for the households that live under chronic poverty, when Jacob Kaimenyi, the education minister, elicited compulsory fees of admissions, books, uniforms, and exams from school children.
The rising fees of public schools have many ill-affordable students to periodically withdraw or suspend. There are students or families that are already financially strapped from making ends meet to choose suicidal act. The news media has reported several deaths of family members and students after they failed to pay secondary school tuitions. If confirmed, the tragic events stem from the combination of poverty and the denial of access to the basic education for youth. “The Cabinet Secretary has completely failed or deliberately refused to enforce the Constitution and the Basic Education Act 2013, or is somewhat complacent in a covert maneuver to deny education to the largely poor families in order to maintain status quo in the country's social economic matrix," Mr. Mutinda, one parent sued Jacob Kaimenyi for overcharging.
According to Kenya Demographic and Health Surveys, while the enrolment rate for public schools has increased to nearly 90% over the past five years, the quality of education is still highly questionable. The United Nations stated that about 1/3 of Kenyan sixth graders are illiterate. Most schools are in short supply of running water, electricity, textbooks, and teaching materials, let alone the lack of computers and technology. At the Amboni Secondary School in central Kenya, it is not uncommon to find four to five students sharing a desk and a book. Instructors in Kenyan schools are responsible for teaching 100 primary school students. The plummeting quality of school education make parents suspect that the imposing fees were not spent on resources for the school, but to increase the income of school administrators.
The scarcity of resources and the chronic poverty of Kenyan’s households lead to many domestic and social issues. First of all, a severe lack of school instructors and basic resources result in deprivation of individual attention and employment skills. Together with mass property, this circumstance prevents most students from continuing their education. Another visible result is that a large percentage of teens in Kenya do not acquire usable knowledge and skills, which exposes them to minimal employment opportunities. Neither being in school nor at a workplace, the idle teens are often found to be part of drug abuse, crime, infection, and early pregnancy. This dangerous behavior imposes a threat to Kenya’s economy and social stability. The insufficient funds provided by the government contribute to the decline of health care services, which results in many teens being highly vulnerable to severe diseases and exploitations from a young age. There are students and family members who have chosen suicidal behavior as a means of avoiding the shame and the hopeless future.
The brain drain problem is another result caused by inadequate education. Usually, groups of tourists flock to Kenya for wildlife safaris, and it can be hard to understand the other side of this beautiful nation. With advanced education and social services in short supply, some excellent young people depart the country with the hope of obtaining extensive opportunities for advancement in their education and career elsewhere.
Herein, instead of focusing on reducing the funds for basic education, it is of uttermost importance to advance the education system to cultivate the intellectual capital and boost the national economy with a highly educated population. Cheserek and Mugalavia, authors of the academic journal article Challenges and Reforms Facing Kenyan Education System in the 21st Century: Integrating the Principles of Vision 2030 and Constitution 2010, believe that “the Republic of Kenya requires an education system that will produce citizens who are able to engage in lifelong learning, learn new skills quickly, perform more non – routine tasks, capable of more complex problem-solving, take more decisions, understand more about what they are working on, assume more responsibility, have more vital tools, have better reading culture, quantitative analysis, reasoning and expository skills”.
Despite the frustration and tragedy that many Kenyan teens have faced, many individuals are still confident that the advancement of the education system will happen and that the students have a bright future. The United Nations, foreign correspondents, and many individuals have taken the initiative in regard to educational issues in Kenya. Several non-profit organizations have been established to fill the gap and attempt to sponsor children from primary school to higher education. This provides opportunities for who have been previously denied access to education. Such an attempt contains the link-effect, which allows the sponsored children to provide assistance to others that need sponsorship.