Top 10 Facts About Girls' Education in Kenya 
Kenya is a country located on the eastern coast of the African continent with ongoing reforms for tremendous political, social and economic development. The first steps of these reforms began with the passage of a new constitution in 2010 that introduced a bicameral legislative house and devolved county government. Whilst these developments are taking place, the country faces challenges fighting poverty, inequality, climate change and the vulnerability of the economy to internal and external fluctuations.

A huge subset of these challenges facing Kenya is girls education. Similar to the countries across the continent, Kenya portrays a reality where girls are denied their right to education due to social and cultural norms, such as child marriage and female genital cutting aside from economic barriers. These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kenya reveal some of the historical contexts for these hurdles, the challenges for better access and steps being taken toward future goals. 

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Kenya

  1. In 2003, Kenya enacted a law that made primary education free. As a result of this legislation, enrollment rates increased to 84 percent. 
  2. This legislation by the government had a positive outcome at large; however, it was found that in some regions where poverty and gender inequality are particularly high, only 19 percent of girls were in school. 
  3. From the student population that enrolls in the first year of school, one in five (or less) make it to their eighth year. This high rate of dropouts is a result of early marriage, female genital cutting, poverty and other factors. 
  4. Female genital cutting is a historically and culturally rooted social tradition that has reached as high as 89 percent of the female population in marginalized areas such as the Maasailand in Kenya. 
  5. While the practice of genital cutting is illegal in Kenya, lots of parents in marginalized areas still subject their girls to female genital cutting with the aim of eliminating teenage pregnancies and increasing girls’ chances for marriage. 
  6. Although primary education is free, a family still holds the responsibility of paying for textbooks, uniforms and teachers’ salaries. Moreover, if a child is going to school, it also means that they are not spending time contributing to the family’s income. Such an occurrence adds a perceived loss in addition to the cost of going to school. This is particularly worse for girls who are expected to marry early and join their husband’s family. 
  7. In 2016, the U.N. reported that an estimated one in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their menstrual cycle due to an inability to access affordable sanitary products. 
  8. Despite its many obstacles, Kenya has met some Millennium Development Goals with targets — including reduced child mortality, near universal primary school enrolment and narrowed gender gaps in education. 
  9. A step for progress, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Basic Education Amendment Act requiring the government to provide free sanitary towels to schoolgirls in 2017 and allocated $4.6 million to the gender department ministry for the projects. 
  10. One year of secondary education for a girl in Kenya corresponds to over 25 percent increase in wages; if girls were to finish their secondary education, child marriage would be reduced by at least 50 percent. 

Investing in Girls’ Education in Kenya

Long-standing traditions and beliefs along with high levels of poverty are seemingly huge hurdles to overcome; however, the pursuit of providing more than half of the Kenyan population with access to education is a challenge worth taking — especially when it has the potential for great social and economic returns. 

– Bilen Kassie
Photo: Flickr

Light of Hope Girls’ School
Primary and secondary education in Kenya is progressing, but it continues to leave inequalities unaddressed between boys’ and girls’ in regards to schooling. Because of social and domestic norms, girls are expected to stay home more often than boys. Additionally, in impoverished countries like Kenya, any money that may pay for schooling is typically allocated primarily for the boys in the family — a reality that too often results in a lack of education for girls in Kenya.

The Importance of Girls’ Education

In Kenya, girls account for 44 percent of children not enrolled in school and 51 percent of the illiterate population aged 15-24. This lack of education for girls harms the country’s progress towards a better educated and economically stable populous.

Educating women is the key to decreasing poverty. As girls’ education increases, population growth, fertility and infant/child mortality rates fall and overall family health improves. When girls are more educated, they are more ready and able to enter the labor force, which brings money back to the family and betters the economy in which educated women live.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), women on average reinvest up to 90 percent of their earnings back into their households. When women have better education, and therefore higher earning power, they are able to spend more money on their households. That money is typically spent on nutrition, food, healthcare and education. All of the aforementioned categories in which women typically reinvest their money are keys to raising families and communities out of abject poverty.

The Light of Hope Girls’ School

In an effort to continue to make progress educating girls in Kenya and to ensure that the school teachers are equipped with the knowledge and confidence they need to bring an end to poverty, Boni and Sandy Karanja established The Light of Hope Girls’ School in Naivasha, Kenya in 2005 with only six studentsIn 2013, its first class of girls graduated from the school, and in 2015, the school had grown large enough to accept 160 students.

The Light of Hope Girls’ School in Kenya seeks to bridge the inequality between boys and girls education by educating girls in Kenya. Not only does the school offer a proper education for girls with otherwise no access to it, it also provides housing, healthcare and emotional support to their students. Many of the girls live at The Light of Hope Girls’ School due to poor or dangerous home lives. Leaving situations such as abandonment, abuse or abject poverty, the girls are able to find a home and get a proper education at the school.

Beyond the standard schooling, The Light of Hope Girls’ School seeks to empower girls to become future leaders for change in their communities. The staff at the school work to ensure that the environment at Light of Hope is one of peace and love, a place where the girls can find “refuge, restoration and redirection.” By instilling confidence, leadership skills and compassion into each of the students, the school teaches those girls how to take what they have learned and pass it on to someone else.

– Savannah Hawley
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Kenya
In 2003, Kenya first introduced what is known as free primary education. Since then, primary school enrolment rates have increased as much as 84 percent in some regions; a great improvement for the country as a whole. However, the reality is that barriers remain in Kenya that reinforce male privilege. A lack of girls’ education in Kenya is one of these barriers.

Low School Enrollment for Girls

In regions that experience high poverty rates and low levels of gender equality, as little as 19 percent of the girls in the region are enrolled in local primary schools. In others, as few as one in 15 girls are enrolled in primary school. There is an obvious gender gap when it comes to girls’ education in Kenya.

Although primary education may now be free in Kenya, families are still responsible for providing the children with the necessary equipment to attend these primary schools. Often, families must prioritize the education costs of their children and make the difficult decision to send the child thought to have the best possibility of future success and keep the other, or others, home.

In rural Kenya, one in two girls is married by age 19. The legal marriage age is 16. The percentage of girls getting married below the age of 18 is 30.5 percent.

One father describes his decision not to enroll his daughter in primary school: he says he was “trying to be practical by keeping [her] home” he “never thought of education as a right” and instead focused on her future marriage. This belief and thought process is not uncommon in Kenya. Most often, the result is sending the boy to school and keeping the girl home.

A Need to Challenge the Traditions

The good news is, this thought process and belief can be changed. It is evident that laws and policy do not impact enrollment rates for girls in Kenya, so what is left? What is needed is an engagement and challenge of the traditions and culture in Kenya, specifically rural Kenya.

Traditions have a large influence on education barriers for young girls. Poverty, ignorance and male preference factor in to disadvantage young girls and their educational track.

While it is rare enough for girls to attend primary school, transitioning to secondary school or universities is almost unheard of. In Trans Mara West, 2.4 percent of the female population attends university. Even more shocking, just 1 percent of girls are enrolled in university in Narok North.

Girls’ education has been proven to be one of the most beneficial strategies to enhance development and economic growth. Educated mothers tend to have healthier children and that these children are also more likely to attend school, breaking the cycle of illiteracy and poverty.

Foreign aid and governmental efforts must now be allocated towards changing beliefs and traditions surrounding girls’ education in Kenya in an effort to increase primary school and university enrollment rates.

– Haley Hine
Photo: Flickr