Causes of Poverty in Kenya: The Relevance of Education

There are three major causes of poverty in Kenya relating to a lack of adequate education, even though Kenya is a country that values education and recognizes its long-term benefits for the nation. Kenya is in dire need of assistance to rise above the poverty line, considering 45.9 percent of the population were below that line in 2005.

Kenya is a society that values education highly; in fact, 95.6 percent of youth were enrolled in basic education in 2000 and 108.9 percent were enrolled in 2015. The data exceeds 100 percent due to overage and underage Kenyans attending school. The influx in enrollment was partially caused by the abolishment of entry fees for primary schools in 2006.

However, the first of many causes of poverty in Kenya is the amount of funding the schools require from Kenyans and government officials to provide adequate materials and resources. Just this month, a Kenyan youth mentor named Michael Wanjala, who was raised in Nairobi, shared: “The thing that pushed me so much was one day when mom went to ask for a loan of 2,000 shillings to pay for my education…It was so hard. I had to go and ask for textbooks. I had to go and ask for a uniform, for shoes.”

Overpopulation is the second issue because the vast quantity of enrolled children today means there is a higher demand in resources for a well-equipped, productive learning environment.

Furthermore, a poor quality education is another one of the causes of poverty in Kenya. A high number of children are cramped together in classrooms, there are minimal teaching materials and each class has a single teacher. With a poor teacher to student ratio, children who learn differently end up getting left behind because the teacher does not have a chance to serve each child individually. Those children who are left behind remain enrolled in school until they can catch up, adding to the amount of resources needed, since there is not an even ratio of new students to graduated students.

The Ministry of Education has already established a Directorate of Quality Assurance and Standards under the Education Act of Kenya to begin the process of monitoring teachers’ performances and to improve the quality of Kenya’s basic education.

Simply because many Kenyan children attend school does not necessarily mean that they are benefitting from the experience as much as they could be. If they were provided with more schools, teachers, resources and extra funding for additional materials, then their attendance in primary schools would make a greater impact on the country’s poor. Kenya’s school system needs to match the demand caused by their large population so that children can obtain a quality education and – hopefully – be better equipped to lift themselves out of poverty and succeed in the future.

Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

Fire Safety in Kenya
In the slum communities of Nairobi, Kenya, residents often lack basic protections from the risk of fire. Poor electrical wiring, risky cooking practices and poorly constructed housing create a deadly environment for the city’s poorest residents.

One technology company, Halo Smart Labs, has developed a smoke detector that can dramatically increase fire safety in Kenya, especially in the country’s urban fringe.

The poor neighborhoods that ring Kenya’s capital city are largely “informal” communities, built spontaneously and out of urgent necessity, with little to no concern given to potential hazards such as floods or fire. Electrical grids exist but are often temperamental and dangerous, with wires hanging loosely from casings; death by electrocution is not uncommon. Homes are constructed using cheap materials and cooking is often carried out using paraffin stoves with adulterated fuel.

2011 was a particularly devastating year, when an estimated 25,000 Kenyans were left homeless from blazes. All of 2014 and June of 2017 also saw major fires rip through communities.

A smoke detector system is desperately needed for Kenya’s urban slum dwellers – which led to the development of a device able to be installed in ill-equipped communities. Halo‘s technology allows an alarm to be placed in a home for minimal cost and without the need for a reliable electrical connection. An SMS feature also allows nearby residents and fire fighters themselves to receive instant updates on a developing situation.

The organization has partnered with the Kenyan Red Cross for the venture, which has already carried out a successful trial run. Company executives conducted site surveys, trained local administrators and oversaw initial testing. Combined with the Red Cross’s community connections and local expertise, the device has the capability to drastically improve fire safety in Kenya and its vulnerable urban centers.

Plans are currently underway to expand the rollout of the device. In terms of how many users the smoke detector could acquire, Halo has set an ambitious goal of one billion by 2025.

Even without reaching this lofty goal, Halo’s technological innovation can dramatically reduce the fire risks that too frequently come part-and-parcel of living in slum communities around the globe.

Jonathan Riddick

Photo: Flickr

trash in NairobiDavid Kimani is a Kenyan man who grew up across the street from the largest landfill in the country. Being raised in the slums of Nairobi, Kimani dropped out after primary school.

Kimani, now a father of three, currently owns and operates a garbage recycling company, according to the Xinhua News Agency. He now earns about $30 a day selling recyclable trash in Nairobi. He has also hired five young people from similar backgrounds who face socioeconomic struggles.

Despite pressure from friends and family to pursue education, Kimani wanted to start a business. “I had done my own research and consulted widely with established players who convinced me that waste recycling promised returns. An older relative had earlier bought a car from the proceeds of garbage collection,” Kimani said.

According to UNICEF, approximately two-thirds of the population of Nairobi lives in informal settlements where they face issues of overcrowding, lack of health and educational resources, poor sanitation and social exclusion. According to ISID, only 12 percent of the households in the Nairobi slums have access to piped water.

Youth living in slums across Africa are less likely to attend school than children living in non-slum areas, according to the Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID).

The Nairobi county governor, Evans Kidero, honored Kimani’s young workers by agreeing to a government-funded contract that will help to clear trash in Nairobi out of residential areas.

He stated, “We will be spending 10,000 dollars every day for the next 45 days to ensure that Nairobi is restored to its former status as a green capital. Private contractors will partner with the National Youth Service to alleviate the garbage menace.” In addition, Kidero intends to form an incentives plan to encourage the youth to become full-time garbage collectors.

Caleb Kidali, a youth mentor for low-income children in Nairobi, noted the positive changes that employers can make to help youth from poor backgrounds afford to move out of the slums. “During its formative stages, garbage collection was like a hobby for bored youth until it evolved into a money minting exercise,” Kidali said.

Other companies, like Taka ni Pato (Trash is Cash), have started to hire young people to give them an employment and income opportunity and to enhance their communities by creating cleaner living spaces. In fact, Taka ni Pato has hired more than 100 young people to collect trash in Nairobi, benefiting the young people directly and the community as a whole.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: Global Giving, Institute for the Study of International Development, UNICEF, Xinhua
Photo: Google Images

Ecosystem Based Food Security Conference 2015
More than 1,400 participants gathered in Nairobi, Kenya for the second annual Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Conference. This year’s theme is “Re-imagining Africa’s Food Security Now and into the Future under a Changing Climate,” and the conference included round tables, discussions and plenary sessions that explored how to sustainably use African soils.

The overarching idea behind the conference was to generate discussion and propose solutions to Africa’s food crisis by focusing on using the resources at hand and capitalizing on existing adaptations in the food production chain that may aid food producers in the face of impending climate change.

The conference did not just focus on food production, however, but also addressed the labor behind food production, including supporting the expansion of local agricultural businesses and employment for women and youth in Africa.

Building on the thematic discussions throughout the conference, attendees had the opportunity to discuss how to maximize policy framework and develop an action plan to ensure not only food security, but livelihood security as well.

Organized in collaboration with a number of United Nations agencies, the conference took place July 30 and 31, 2015, at the U.N. Complex in Nairobi, Kenya.

Gina Lehner

Sources: International Policy Digest, 2nd Africa Food Security Conference
Photo: EBASouthE

schools_in_nairobiThe internet has been a major agent in combating global poverty. Connectivity gives access to a new world of information and has revolutionized sectors ranging from finance to health in the global community. However, the internet has had perhaps its greatest impact in education, in which it gives students and teachers access to previously unknown quantities of information.

That’s why it’s great news that over 2,000 schools in Nairobi will be getting free internet.

This innovative solution comes from a project called WazED, through a partnership of telecommunications company Wananchi Group, the Kenya Education Network and the County Government of Nairobi.

WazED will put a total of 2,715 schools across Nairobi county online.

The program is a natural step for the nation Wananchi Group non-executive chairman Richard Bell calls, “the fastest growing ICT hub in the region.” Kenya has continued to be one of the most innovative nations in terms of helping people with technology, with services ranging from mobile finance platform mPesa to mobile education projects such as Eneza Education.

WazED is connected to Kenya’s “Vision 2030” goals, which seek to build a more politically just, economically thriving, and socially equitable Kenya by 2030. The Vision 2030 goals recognize the importance of all sectors of life in their achievement and particularly embraces technology as an important means of social change. And because of the educational potential that improving internet access in schools brings, this makes sense.

Connecting people to the internet is one of the most effective ways of empowering them. Online, not only can one find the most extensive collection of data and news imaginable, but an incredibly wide spectrum of ideas are also present. Connecting Kenyan schools to the internet is an incredibly important step in empowering the next generation and fighting against digital resource inequality.

Andrew Michaels

Sources: CIO, IT Web Africa, allAfrica, IT News Africa, Kenya Vision 2030
Photo: CIO

In the developing world, one in three girls is married before age 18, and over 200,000 women die each year from pregnancy-related causes. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women account for approximately 60 percent of HIV infections, despite making up just over half of the population.

The International Center for Research on Women, or ICRW, a Washington, D.C.-based global research institute and registered nonprofit, has been working for nearly 40 years to combat statistics like these.

Founded in 1976, the ICRW conducts empirical studies intended to measure the obstacles that hinder women in the developing world from reaching their full potential. The ICRW then recommends policy priorities and designs “evidence-based plans” for donors, program designers and policy makers that enable needy women to lead happier, healthier lives.

The ICRW focuses its research on several main areas related to women’s empowerment. The first of these areas centers on issues that begin in adolescence.

Specifically, the ICRW conducts research on child marriage, education, work, healthcare and relationships. By identifying ways to make the attitudes and options of adolescent boys and girls more equitable, the ICRW hopes to empower women to take better control of their own futures.

The ICRW also focuses its research on how disparity between men and women affects agricultural productivity and food security in developing nations; women’s economic empowerment, employment opportunities and property rights; reproductive health and fertility control; HIV contraction, stigma and discrimination; and domestic violence issues.

In the four decades since its inception, the ICRW’s research has been instrumental in bringing about meaningful change in the lives of women in need. Its research efforts have, among other accomplishments, guided the passage of a 2005 law in India working to combat domestic violence, increased the availability of microfinance loans available to women in developing nations and helped integrate women’s empowerment and gender equality into the Millennium Development Goals.

With new regional offices in Kenya and India, the ICRW continues to conduct relevant research aimed to produce “a path of action that honors women’s human rights, ensures gender equality and creates the conditions in which all women can thrive.”

– Katrina Beedy

Sources: International Center for Research on Women, Coalition for Adolescent Girls
Photo: Flickr

Thus far, Kenya’s economy depends largely on tourism, specifically safari tours. Travelers often spend the night in Nairobi, the region’s gateway to business, before their safari adventure. Kenya also benefits from pineapple production–a top five producer worldwide–through exporting both canned pineapple and juice concentrates. But there is much more to the booming country than tourism and agriculture. So what else is special about this east African nation?

Kenya is Young and Friendly

Youths serve as optimists for the future and in Nairobi, they keep the economy going. More than 60% of the population is less than 25 years old. Kenyans tend to be warm-hearted and welcoming to foreigners. While the national language in Swahili, many Kenyans speak English at a high level and are willing to converse with tourists about Kenyan culture.

While Kenya is sophisticated compared to its East African neighbors, the country still suffers from unemployment and poor infrastructure. Many of Kenya’s young cannot get jobs due to a lack of skills and opportunities.

The Diaspora Returns

Waiting an hour and a half for a pizza in Nairobi? Rotesh Doshi would rather not. After studying at the London School of Economics, he pursued work opportunities abroad. When he had the chance to bring United States-based franchise, Naked Pizza, to Nairobi, he took it and ran with it.

Although it is his hometown, Doshi found many challenges to setting up a business in Nairobi, including poor infrastructure, government bureaucracy and a short supply of skilled human labor. “You often ask yourself ‘is it worth it’ when a lot more things go wrong than right,” Doshi said. “But there is nothing else that I would rather be doing right now, especially being part of that growth story in my own country.”

Promising Entertainment Industry

Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar win for her supporting performance in 12 Years a Slave gives Kenya’s entertainment industry a ray of hope. With 40% of Kenya’s workforce unemployed, and 70% of those being less than 35 years old, successes like Nyong’o’s show young people that they can, in fact, make it in the entertainment sector, which can then boost the economy.

The government hopes to do this through establishing a film school and promoting the entertainment industry as a legitimate avenue for job creation. Kenya looks to Nigeria for inspiration. Nigeria’s film industry, referred to as “Nollywood,” produces about 50 films per week–many more than Hollywood and second only to India’s Bollywood.

Attracting New Businesses

Food processing giant Del Monte set up a Kenyan branch called Cirio Del Monte Kenya to take advantage of the region’s high-yielding pineapple production. In the technology sector, Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung announced plans for a new assembly plant in Nairobi, positioning the city as the East African center of operation.

With businesses like Proctor & Gamble, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and IBM opening regional hubs in Nairobi comes the opportunity for more employment for the country’s youth. Foreign businesses that are setting up their African headquarters in centrally located Nairobi also benefit local businesses, like Kenya Airways.

– Haley Sklut 

Sources: BBC, How We Made It In Africa, All Africa, US Embassy, Career Nation
Photo: Sida

Slums, Sanitation and Misery

For the people living in the Korogocho slums in Nairobi, Kenya, life can be a constant struggle. The threat of disease and unclean drinking water looms in the minds of those who have no other options but to live in areas with broken sewage pipes and “flying toilets.” These unsanitary conditions put the people in Korogocho at risk for health problems and leave them vulnerable to exploitative water companies.

The typical day for someone living in the slums may involve the use of a flying toilet, a plastic bag used to dispose of human waste. While there are some pay-toilets, most people cannot afford the money to use one. As a result, these plastic bags can be found discarded in the streets of the slums among the broken sewer lines.

As the population in Nairobi grows, more slums are popping up. In Kenya, the number of people without access to toilets has risen to 20%. Access to piped water is even lower in urban areas, 38.4% (and 13.4% of the rural population). These numbers are likely to mimic the sanitation circumstances in Nairobi.

The health implications of unsanitary water systems are illnesses including malnutrition, diarrhea, cholera and typhoid fever. When water mixes with sewage, it creates a breeding ground for inimical viruses and germs. International health organizations and Kenya’s government are eager to improve sanitation in order to save lives. Currently, one in five African children dies from diarrhea before the age of five.

Simple ways to improve the sanitation system in Korogocho include mobile toilets, bucket removal, and dry composting toilets. However, even these solutions can result in human remains ending up in the Nairobi River. The Kenyan population is expected to increase by one million people every year, which will further exacerbate the struggling water and sanitation system. Until these problems are seriously addressed, Kenyans will continue to endure preventable illnesses.

– Mary Penn

Source: IRIN News
Photo: The Guardian

Is Africa the Future of Tech?

The first thing that many people think when Africa is mentioned is what we see on television: war, drought, malnutrition, and extreme poverty. But what if it was possible for Africa to become the next big tech hub?

Africa as a continent has come to the forefront and has become the site for many global investments. Global businesses have kickstarted this growth, structural change, and optimism by investing in the area, and some of these investments have been going to cutting-edge communications and other improvements. This allows a faster transfer of knowledge across the continent and for research work, such as vaccine trials for malaria, to take place in Africa itself.

More cutting-edge research will be taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, where IBM has opened its first lab in Africa. Markets in Africa are beginning to be targeted as well, as Microsoft and Huawei have launched a smartphone engineered specifically for the African market. This targeting by large companies opens Africa up to more opportunities for local research and innovation. Agencies from countries like Brazil are playing a role in establishing agricultural security in Africa as well. Offices set up by Brazil’s Embrapa could lead to more local research in agriculture.

If after a decade of continued growth, the most developed countries in Africa accelerate into new research and technological opportunities, it could be quite possible that the continent as a whole could become a new hub for technological advancement in the future.

– Sarah Rybak

Source: Forum Blog
Photo: Open University

The use of mobile telephone in Africa has spread so rapidly that in 2001 mobile phones first outnumbered fixed lines, and by the end of 2012, 70% of Africa’s population was expected to have a cell phone. Communication has never been so easy and it has opened up new opportunities across the globe.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in collaboration with technical partners, developed a low cost, user-friendly survey methodology that allows data to be collected using inexpensive and widely available cell phones.

The new system is called Rapid Mobile Phone-based survey (RAMP), which is sufficiently flexible to be used for a range of tasks in many fields. “We are now producing preliminary results within 24 hours and a full draft report of a survey within three days,” says Mac Otten, RAMP developer for IFRC. “This allows us to analyze the data quicker with the end result being that we can adapt interventions quicker to the needs of the most vulnerable.”

Recent results from a RAMP survey in the Kenya project are impressive: 90% of households own at least one net and net use is at 80%  for the total population. Net distribution, combined with a community approach to malaria treatment called the Home Management of Malaria project, demonstrates that empowering communities to respond comprehensively to malaria is part of the winning formula to beat the disease.

But malaria is not the only problem.

In Kenya, where 35% of children under five are stunted, 16% are underweight and, one Kenyan woman in 35 faces risk of maternal death, having the right information at the right time is vital to save the lives of both mothers and their children.

“There hasn’t been a nutrition survey in our project area for a long time,” says Mwanaisha Marusa Hamisi, Assistant Secretary General for Coast Province, Kenya Red Cross Society. “Although we knew nutrition was an issue, the information collected through RAMP will allow us to better target volunteer actions. We need to tackle specific attitudes and behaviours to achieve results.”

The project in Kenya is now moving towards comprehensive maternal and child health actions at the community level to provide broader health services closer to the people who need them most.

– Essee Oruma

Source: allAfrica