Kibaki’s free school puts Kenya ahead of South Africa


Pupils at Tarasaa Primary School in Tana Delta during a lesson. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The free universal primary education programme introduced under former president Mwai Kibaki has lifted Kenya above its peers, including the most advanced economy on the continent South Africa, according to a new World Bank index measuring the productivity potential of the youth.

The World Bank Human Capital Index released on Friday places Kenya in third place in Africa behind Seychelles and Mauritius, based on parameters such as expected years of school and harmonised test scores.

The survey also assessed the probability of a child’s survival to age five, adult survival rate and healthy growth.

Kenya beats all her neighbours on the access to education measure.

A Kenyan child is likely to have nearly 11 years of education under their belt by the time they turn 18, which is higher than the sub-Saharan Africa average of 8.1 years and just short of the global average of 11.2 years.

The two largest economies in Africa, Nigeria and South Africa, scored 0.41 and 0.34 on the index respectively, with their children getting 9.3 years and 8.2 years’ worth of education before they hit adulthood.

“In Kenya, a child who starts school at age four can expect to complete 10.7 years of school by her 18th birthday,” says the World Bank in the report.

“Students in Kenya score 455 on a scale where 625 represents advanced attainment and 300 represents minimum attainment…the index quantifies the contribution of health and education to the productivity of the next generation of workers. Countries can use it to assess how much income they are foregoing because of human capital gaps.”

Millions joined schools

Kenya introduced the free primary education programme in 2003 at the start of Mr Kibaki’s term in State House, which saw more than one million children join school where many of them had previously been locked out due to lack of fees.

The State also started subsidising secondary education at the beginning of this year, removing the Sh9,374 school fees previously charged students in day public secondary schools in a move meant to improve the transition rate from primary school.

Learners in boarding schools also receive a similar subsidy towards their school fees.
Education accounts for the largest share of the Sh3 trillion national budget for the 2018/19 fiscal year. The Treasury allocated the sector a total of Sh444.1 billion, out of which Sh59.4 billion has been earmarked for subsidised day secondary education, Sh13.4 billion for free primary education and Sh91 billion for university education.

In addition, Sh4 billion was allocated for examinations fee waiver for all Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates, and Sh2 billion for the school feeding programme.

On the overall human capital index, Kenya scores 0.52, against a sub-Sahara Africa average of 0.41 against a maximum score of 1.0. The probability of survival to five years for a Kenyan child stands at 0.95, slightly higher than the Africa average of 0.93.

The highest scorer globally was Singapore at 0.88 on the overall index and 1.0 on the probability of survival, meaning that all children born in the Asian country can expect to live to the age of five.

52pc productive

According to the World Bank metrics, this means that a Kenyan child born today will be 52 per cent as productive when they grow up as compared to what would be the case if they had enjoyed complete education and full health.

Regional neighbours all scored below 0.5 on the index, with only Seychelles (0.68) and Mauritius (0.63) scoring higher than Kenya.

EAC member countries all scored below the continental average, with Tanzania’s human capital index at 0.4, Uganda and Rwanda at 0.38 each and Burundi at 0.37.