Kenya is developing an online system that will transform data management in the education sector. It's called the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS) and is currently being piloted in 600 schools. Ms. Lynn Nyongesa from the Ministry of Education leads the team of system developers who have been designing, developing, coding and hosting NEMIS and say the launch should be conducted soon.
Kenya has a large and complex education system with an estimated 12 million children in about 120,000 institutions including pre-primary schools. There are close to 100,000 teachers in primary and secondary education institutions (2015). Kenya has vastly improved school enrollment since the introduction of Education for All in the early 2000s. However, disparities in access, retention and completion, especially by region and economic status, are still high.
Improving this complex system requires timely and accurate data. Thanks to a US$88.4 million grant from GPE, the flow of information available to policy makers in Kenya is about to undergo a radical shift. The grant is also supporting teacher training and performance, system appraisal and development, printing and distribution of textbooks for early grade mathematics and school improvement grants.
Quality basic education for all learners
“Through this system, every child will get a unique identifying number,” Ms. Nyongesa, explained. “That way the system can track them even if they transfer to another school. And if they drop out, we can know that and follow up. It will help us come up with good policies to offer quality basic education for all our learners.”
The portal also gives a unique number to every teacher and to every institution in the country from early childhood development centers through to universities. Deploying teachers as per the needs of institutions will be easier with rolling out of the new system.
Tracking performance, improving delivery
According to Leah Rotich, Director General of the Ministry of Education in the State Department of Basic Education, the system provides a wealth of valuable information.
“Apart from the number, the database will have the name, age, parents’ information, and household information of the child. Teachers will attach their report cards to that number so we can trace the performance of the child from one class to another,” she said.
The database will allow researchers analyze the underlying factors of both success and challenges of a student or a group of students throughout their education.
“The database can also be accessed by Kenyan universities and college placement services and by the ministry to select children for secondary schools after they get their primary certificate.
Addressing accountability and transparency
But that is just the beginning... Ultimately, NEMIS will enable Kenya to build an education system over time, which will allow the government to better plan for and address efficiency, accountability and transparency issues.
“We will be able to easily see gross enrollment, net enrollment, drop out, retention... from actual data entered at the school level by the head teachers,” Ms. Rotich said. “That way, we will be able to provide schools with funds for children based on the actual number of children in schools.”
NEMIS will guide staffing decisions by ensuring there are the required number of teachers in schools based on the actual number of students. This will also allow the Ministry to plan for the exact amount of school grants to be disbursed, textbooks to be printed and distributed and teachers to be trained in a given year.
More importantly, this will allow the ministry to plan for the exact amount of school grants to be disbursed, textbooks to be printed and teachers to be trained in a given year.
Reaching remote areas
As NEMIS rolls out, there will be much work to done to train users, and to ensure the system is in place at schools in even the most remote parts of the country. However, officials at the Ministry of Education have no doubt that, though it will take some time, the program will be successful.
“We are riding on the success of the government having put networks in place all over Kenya, both wireless and wired,” Ms Nyongesa said.
“The last mile connection is what has become the issue here—getting it to the school and village level. There will be a concerted effort to achieve this. Indeed, this is the backbone of what we are doing now.”