Kenya has seen great success in combating poverty, with the national poverty rate declining from 46.8% to 36.1% between 2005 and 2016. Over this same period, the economy grew at an average annual rate of 5.3%. An increased focus on education accompanied this economic success. In line with this new focus — changing education in Kenya is now at the forefront of one nonprofit’s agenda.
Educational Improvements and Barriers
Increased education and poverty reduction closely connect in the developing world. Education gives students the skills to seek better-paying jobs and improve their lives. Acknowledging this, the Kenyan government opted to make primary education free in 2003. It followed up by making secondary education free in 2008 as well. Due to these policies, 94% of rural Kenyans younger than age 13 now enroll in school. However, the quality of education these students receive is highly variable. For example, only 47% of primary school graduates can successfully test into secondary school.
Challenges exist because while school is free, poor children often struggle with difficult home environments. They often must support their families at the expense of their education. Additionally, weak oversight and insufficient government support mean that many areas suffer from poor quality education, lacking recourses or qualified teachers.
Flying Kites is one organization with the aim of changing education in Kenya — specifically, education quality. The organization is a Kenyan nonprofit that runs a program to educate teachers and works with Kenya’s ministry of education. Importantly, it is trying to make education more accessible to poor students. Flying Kites partners with “high potential, resource-poor” schools to invite teachers to attend workshops and sit in on classrooms at the Flying Kites Academy. These teachers go through a program to teach them how to improve their classrooms and provide more support to students.
The Borgen Project recently had the opportunity to talk with Katie Quinn, the Director of Operations in the U.S. for Flying Kites. She explained how Flying Kites originally began in 2007 with a primary school catered toward disadvantaged students in central Kenya. Today, its school has evolved into one of the highest regarded academies in Kenya. Flying Kites is attempting to replicate that success across the country.
So far, Flying Kites has seen great success in improving education in Kenya with its Teacher Training Center. It evaluates the classroom skills of incoming teachers and has found that only 12% of them are proficient in all skills. However, after a year in the program, 67% of teachers achieved classroom proficiency.
According to Quinn, focusing on teachers is the best way to improve the education system.“The delivery of quality education by engaged and supported teachers dramatically improves student outcomes, empowering even the most vulnerable students to become curious and critical thinkers and to develop the skills they need to become life-long learners and positively impact their families and communities.”
Flying Kites’ Approach During COVID-19
COVID-19 has undoubtedly been a disruption to the lives of Fly Kites’ students. However, the organization is working hard to make sure that every student stays on track. It has provided direct relief to more than 6,000 local families. Also, it has been distributing meals to students in need. The organization has also pledged to cover all back-to-school expenses for students at its partner schools. This will include uniforms, school supplies and more. It hopes to guide its students through this difficult time and ensure that none of them give up their education.
Once the pandemic ends, Flying Kites hopes to continue to expand its reach to schools — changing education in Kenya. Quinn explained how the organization is planning to create a “model schools district” by working with all 45 local primary schools as well as the Kenyan government. The aim is to create a better environment for teachers and their students. By doing so, Flying Kites seeks to create a repeatable model for education in Kenya that improves student outcomes and creates better opportunities to escape poverty.
– Jack McMahon