Education and Resilience in Kenya's Arid Lands
Parents in the Arid Lands want their children to receive a good quality education and are prepared to invest in it, but they say that state education is failing almost all of their children. A recent study PCI conducted for UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Office, which collected the views of young people, parents and officials from across northern Kenya, found that problems with quality, content and accessibility are perpetuated as much outside the schools as inside them. Now parents, elders and out-of-school youth are looking for ways to take the issue in hand. The main findings were:
- Most children are not in school. For example, according to Government of Kenya statistics only 27.2 per cent of children of primary age and 9.3 per cent of children of secondary age were in school in Wajir in 2014*. Parents are making a clear choice for alternatives such as pastoralist or religious education. They say these are more accessible and more economically and culturally relevant.
- Pastoralism is the economic mainstay of the Kenya’s arid counties, yet schools do not teach subjects relevant to pastoralism and many portray a negative image of the livelihood.
- Only those children whose parents have money and connections are assured of access to a high quality state or private school education and hope for a good job at the end.
- Many schools suffer manipulation and negative politics. Politically motivated teacher transfers, uneven distribution of resources and poorly sited CDF (Constituency Development Fund) schools undermine education quality.
- Many school leavers feel economically and politically marginalized from the rest of Kenya.
- Most of the young people leaving secondary school are not finding secure jobs, yet feel unable to return to the rural areas. Instead many are ‘hustling’ in town.
- A rising number of young people who have been to school are turning to drugs and crime, including joining Al-Shabaab and other insurgent groups.
- A growing number of initiatives are now being organized by parents, youth and community leaders towards getting the kind of education that they want. Pastoralists, in particular, are starting schools that allow herding education and formal learning to move hand in hand.