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School dropouts fuel inequality among children in Kenya


Thousands of children still leave school early without the life-saving basic education. file photo | nmg


  • Three out of ten students, who enroll for school in class one in Kenya, fails to sit for their KCPE after the expected eight years.

As the world marks the Day of the African Child, focus shifts to Kenya’s high dropout rate among children enrolled in primary schools. The poor transition rate to high school is a big concern and befits a review given this year’s celebrations themed “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development”.

Official data shows that about 32 per cent of pupils who enrolled for school in 2009 and expected to sit for their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) last year -- after eight academic years -- failed to sit for the examination.

The Free Primary Education Programme was supposed to end despair of dropping out of school for lack of fees. Completion has been improving, but thousands of children still abandon schooling early without the life-saving basic education.

About 30 per cent, or three out of 10 students, who enrol for school in Class One in Kenya, fail to sit for the KCPE, signifying the high rate of either dropout or repetition of grades.

The trend has been the same since the 2013 KCPE cohort.

Out of 1,231,300 students who enrolled for Class One in 2006, only 839,800 sat the KCPE in 2013, leaving 32 per cent behind.

In the 2014 cohort, of the 1,312,100 pupils who enrolled for school in 2007, about 880,500 or 67 per cent sat the final exam in 2014.

In 2015, 30 per cent failed to sit the KCPE compared to the 28 per cent in 2016.

According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), Kenya’s high rate of school drop rate is replicated across sub-Saharan Africa.

Unesco data reveals that the region has the highest out-of-school rate for all age groups.

READ: High Class 8 dropouts hurt Kenya in UN poverty index

The report indicates that of the 63 million out-of-school children, 34 million, or more than one-half, live in sub-Saharan Africa. The region also has the highest rate of out-of-school adolescents (37 per cent). In addition, of 139 million upper secondary-school-age youth, more than a half of all youth are out of school in sub-Saharan Africa (58 per cent).

On the gender equality front, women empowerment has so far been a great achievement following the vigorous campaigns and guidelines initiated globally to safeguard and uplift the rights and status of the girl-child while the boy-child lags behind.

Data shows that male pupils have higher dropout rates than their female counterparts. For instance, out of the 633,200 boys who enrolled for primary school in 2006, only 67 per cent (426,400 boys) sat for the KCPE exams in 2013 compared to 69 per cent of the girls in the same cohort, who completed their primary education.

This trend was repeated in the 2007-2014 cohort to date, with only a slight variation last year with the completion rate of boys and girls on equal footing at 68 per cent.

In this regard, girls, in fact, appear to be doing much better than boys in nearly all counties, except in northern Kenya and a handful of others in arid and semi-arid areas.

Some of the counties where the number of girls exceeded boys by the biggest margin include Kakamega and Meru, where out of every two girls there was one boy sitting exams. Other counties are Embu, Vihiga and Bungoma.

Studies in Nandi North, Igembe North and Keiyo South in 2012 and 2013 indicate that many of the boys are unable to deal with girls outperforming them in class.

More so, in recent years, there has been a steady increase in the number of men who commit suicide.

Males in the country have been in the spotlight on the surge in the number of deaths due to despair. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data shows that suicide death rate is higher among men than that of women. Out of 491 suicides registered by the KNBS last year,330 of them were men.

The high incidence of suicide among men compared to women has persisted for a decade except in 2010 when the number of male suicides decreased marginally.