Kenyan schools disaster in the making

According to the Kenya National Examinations Council’s first such assessment, 60 per cent of the pupils enrolled have repeated a class, signifying high wastage in the school system. Photo/FILE

The early education of Kenya’s children is a mess, a new government study shows. Six out of every 10 children in Standard Three have already repeated a class, the survey found.

The research by the Kenya National Examinations Council also reveals that seven out of every 10 children, or 70 per cent, regularly miss school for reasons ranging from sickness to lack of uniform. Some are forced to stay at home to help with family chores.

High wastage

On average, there are about 1.2 million children enrolled in Standard Three while cumulatively, there are 8.6 million in primary schools. According to the council’s first such assessment, 60 per cent of the pupils enrolled have repeated a class, signifying high wastage in the school system.

Nyanza Province had the highest number of repeaters, at 69 per cent, followed by Eastern (67), Western (60) and Coast (58). North Eastern and Nairobi provinces recorded the lowest cases of repetition at 24 and 28 per cent respectively. The study also showed that 70 per cent had missed a class during the term, with Coast recording the highest cases at 79 per cent, Eastern (74), Nairobi (73) and Western Province (72). North Eastern at 41 per cent and Central at 59 had the lowest absenteeism rates.

“Class repetition is associated with inefficiency and inequity in the provision of education,” says the report titled: ‘Monitoring Learner Achievement Study For Class Three in Literacy and Numeracy’. “The financing required to provide additional school places for the repeaters can be substantial,” it adds, noting that repeating usually leads to dropping out.

Hinder learning

Knec carried out the survey to find out what determines the performance of students at the end of the school cycle. The survey also examined the children’s personal, home and school profiles and how they support or hinder learning. Some 7,931 pupils were interviewed in 328 primary schools in 76 districts countrywide.

The results released at the Kenya Institute of Education on Monday, further showed that 52 per cent of the Standard Three pupils were competent in solving Maths problems. Although boys did better than girls in tackling maths (numeracy), girls did well in reading and writing (literacy).

In all, 51 per cent can count while 48 per cent can read and spell. This is in contrast to the performance at Standard Eight, where candidates perform better in languages compared to maths and sciences. Nairobi and Central did well in literacy while North Eastern and Eastern provinces came last.

In numeracy, again Nairobi and Central led the pack with Western and North Eastern lagging behind. “The evidence of these results gives a clear indication that if we are going to enhance the quality of education of our children, then all Kenyans have a part to play,” Education minister Sam Ongeri said at the launch.

“The results have taken stock of our achievement in implementing the curriculum and the factors that affect it,” he added. Arising from the findings, Prof Ongeri directed provincial directors of education to analyse the results and do something about it. The study further shows that parents are taking little interest in the education of their children.

While 88 per cent of the pupils interviewed said they were given homework at school, only half reported that their parents helped with homework. The worst offenders are fathers — only 17 per cent helped with schoolwork, leaving mothers (36 per cent) and siblings (43 per cent) to check the work. Prof Ongeri quipped: “The responsibility of a father does not stop at the birth of a child!”

In provincial analysis, Nairobi recorded more cases where parents supported their children to do home work (77 per cent) while North Eastern had the least (31 per cent). Also noted in the study was the presence of over-age children in the lower classes. At least 44 per cent interviewed were found to be above 10 years, when the official age for this cohort is eight.

North Eastern had the highest number of over-age children at 71 per cent followed by Coast Province at 55 per cent. The minister said that this had a negative effect on the child, especially the girls, who matured faster, making them vulnerable to sexual abuse. He warned teachers against sexually abusing school children, saying those found risked dismissal.

Present during the launch were Education secretary George Godia and acting permanent secretary Magdelene Wambua. Knec secretary Paul Wasanga said another study would be done when the pupils reach Standard Six to determine their progress. “This will enable the government to initiate interventions to deal with learning difficulties before the learners complete primary school,” he said.

This kind of study, which is designed to assess learning outcomes at the various stages of primary school level, is a global trend. In the region, the exercise was started in the early 2000 under the auspices of Southern African Quality and Measurements Consortium (SAQMEC). Similar studies have been done in Uganda, Zambia and Botswana.

This study comes a few weeks after another by the NGO, Uwezo, which indicated that many Standard Eight pupils could not solve problems tackled in lower classes.