Campaigns to boost the girl-child’s access to education have paid dividend with official data showing that a higher percentage of girls are now completing primary school education compared to boys.
While the annual enrolment of boys in Standard One is still higher than that of girls, more boys drop out in the eight years of primary school calendar, data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics show.
In this regard, girls, in fact, appear to be doing much better than boys in nearly all counties, except for northern Kenya and a handful of others in arid and semi-arid areas.
The completion rate for girls is significantly higher than boys in 25 out of the 47 counties, while in six other counties the rate is almost at par for both genders.
This translates to an overall better retention rate for girls in recent years.
For instance, out of the 633,200 boys who enrolled for primary school in 2006, only 67 per cent (426,400 boys) sat for their KCPE exams in 2013.
In contrast, 69 per cent of girls who enrolled for Standard One in 2006 sat for KCPE exams eight years later (598,100).
This trend was repeated in the 2007-2014 cohort to date. Out of the 667,900 boys who joined Standard One in 2007, 66 per cent completed their primary school education in 2014.
On the other hand, 68 per cent of the 644,200 girls who gained admission in Class One in 2007 completed Class Eight.
In 2008, of the 663,900 male pupils who joined Class One, about 70 per cent sat for their KCSE in 2015, compared to 71 per cent of the 652,200 girls who joined Class One in the same period.
There was however, a slight variation in 2017 with the completion rate of boys and girls on equal footing at 68 per cent.
This was, however, a drop in both gender compared to 2016 where 71 per cent of boys and 73 per cent of girls who joined Class One in 2009 sat for KCPE in 2016.
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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.
“Majority of the male pupils in these counties abandon school to venture into economic activities, including mining, fishing and cross-border trade,” said Peter Kubebea, chairman of the National Taxpayers Association which recently conducted an audit on gender enrolment in primary schools.
Counties where the ratio of girls to boys who completed their primary education in 2017 is at par include Nyandarua, Kericho, Taita Taveta, Nyeri and Bomet.
However, all the northern counties of Garissa, Turkana, Mandera and Wajir are an exception. In the five years under review — 2006-2010 — the number of boys who completed primary education by sitting for KCPE outnumbered their female counterparts.
In a few other counties such as Baringo, Samburu, Marsabit and West Pokot, the number of male candidates is higher than that of girls.
The better completion rates for boys in these regions may be a pointer to culture and hardships.
More than the completion rate, the performance of girls in the national examinations has been improving.
This is evident from the fact that out of the 35 top ranked candidates in the 2017 KCPE, 22 were girls while only 13 boys made it to the list.