Education is at the centre of unlocking Kenya’s future opportunities as envisaged in the new Constitution and Vision 2030. The education system remains the largest in East Africa, with more than 28,000 primary and 7,000 secondary schools, more than 60 universities and constituent colleges.
he new Constitution and Vision 2030 place education at the centre of unlocking Kenya’s future. While Vision 2030 is anchored on economic, political and social pillars, education is the centre piece of the social growth. The medium-term goal is to reduce illiteracy and enhance wealth creation by focusing on access, transition, quality, relevance, training and research. In the past eight years, education has made significant strides. In 2011, enrolment in primary schools reached 9.9 million from 9.4 million in 2010 and 5.9 million in 2002, courtesy of Free Primary Education in 2003. In the programme, each pupil is allocated Kshs1,020 ($12) a year for writing, reading material and general expenses.
The money is paid directly to schools. Extra money is allocated for infrastructure, water and sanitation. Some 1.8 million students were in secondary schools in 2011 compared to 1.7 million in 2010 and 1.4 million in 2008 when the Free Tuition Secondary Education programme was launched. Each student is allocated Kshs10,000 ($118) a year for curricula and co-curricular costs. The rise in numbers was as a result of expansion of secondary schools to absorb huge numbers entering Form One, the continued implementation of free tuition secondary education and other Government initiatives, such as Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
University education has also expanded rapidly. Kenya has seven public universities with 23 fullfledged constituent colleges and 27 private universities with five constituent colleges. Most universities have established campuses and centres in major towns. There were 30 public university campuses. Some, like Mt Kenya University, have established a campus in Kigali, Rwanda. Thirty three institutions were approved for collaboration with universities in offering degree programmes. In 2011, university enrolment was 198,260 students compared to 177,618 in 2010.
Kenyans have a long and rich history of education and training. Traditional education was integrated with the social, cultural, artistic, religious and recreational life. Today, African indigenous education in Kenya continues to play a significant role. Missionaries introduced Western education in Kenya. The first missionaries were Portuguese Catholics. By 1557, they had established monasteries in Mombasa and Lamu. The second group included Lutherans sent through the Church Missionary Society (CMS). Among them were Johann Ludwig Krapf, Johann Rebman and Jacob Erhadt. The partition of Africa in 1884 established British Rule in Kenya and led to increase of Christian missionaries.
As missionaries settled, they started schools to spread the gospel and convert Africans to Christianity. They were welcomed because they used schools to rehabilitate slaves. By then, Arabs had introduced schools where they taught the Koran. Christian missionaries had to move further inland, away from the Muslims. Later, the colonial administration urged missionaries to include technical skills in addition to religion. Although some were reluctant, concerned they could lose control to the government, some went along. In 1908, missionaries formed an education committee that later became the Missionary Board of Education, representing the Protestant missions in the British Protectorate. The following year, the British government established an education board, with Henry Scott of the Church of Scotland as chairman. The board was established at the same time that the Fraser and Giroud Commissions were set up. The commissions called for racial consideration in developing the protectorate.
The recommendations included a push for industrial development, technical education and religion as a moral foundation. The importation of expensive labour from India was discouraged. Fraser also recommended a Department of Education. After the First World War, there were calls by the British to develop African colonies. In 1923, the British established a committee to advice on the educational affairs of Africans in Kenya. This marked the beginning of the first educational policy. The period would usher in the three-tier education system. There were racially segregated schools for Europeans, Asians and Africans. It was also the beginning of a joint venture between the government and missionaries to provide education to Africans.
After independence in 1963, the three-tier system evolved into three types of schools-government, private or missionary and harambee or self-help schools. Government schools, formerly reserved for Europeans, and the private ones were the best equipped. Missionary schools continued to exist although some were taken over by the Government. The quality of harambee schools, predominantly for Africans, depended on the economy of the location.