During my recent visit to Kenya, I witnessed firsthand the crucial role that all education partners must play in the successful implementation of the country’s education strategy. Whether government officials, school teachers, community organizations or donors, their strong engagement is key to making progress in the sector.
Working together to come out of crises
Kenya has weathered political, economic and national security crises over the past five years and has also seen direct external aid decline as a result of financial management weaknesses that have since been addressed.
These crises have not diminished the resolve of the partners to ensure that the education sector is able to contribute to Kenya’s national goal to achieve middle-income country status by 2030 and to greatly reduce poverty.
Indeed, Kenya, with its domestic financing commitment to education consistently above 20%, a strong focus on improving learning outcomes, and a vibrant civil society, has emerged as a country poised to make substantial progress over the next four years, including with an additional $88.4 million grant approved by the Global Partnership’s Board last December.
A strong commitment on access, equity and quality
As we discussed with Professor Jacob Kaimenyi, the cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, and Dr. Ruth Kagia, the President’s senior advisor for the social sectors, and our counterparts in the Ministry, success for Kenya will depend on steadfast adherence at all levels to implementing the national education sector plan, as well as county and school level plans that prioritize improved learning outcomes for children.
The government has promised to improve equity by eliminating all school fees, even for exams, and to address the welfare, security and training needs of teachers, particularly those threatened by violence in the country’s north-east. In addition, the national plan places emphasis on improving teacher quality and planning at the school level. We are pleased to support these strategies.
It was heartening as well to meet with the Kenya’s Education Development Partners Coordination Group, whose members have contributed to the development of the education sector plan and who have endorsed the plan for consideration of GPE support. Among these is the Elimu Yetu Coalition, a grantee of the GPE’s Civil Society Education Fund (CSEF) representing 105 organizations campaigning for education in Kenya.
Our discussion confirmed that each partner is optimistic about the potential for real change in Kenya and improved learning outcomes, and is committed to play a supportive role.
A stronger focus on data is needed
However, the group is also realistic about Kenya’s challenges, including the lack of data upon which policy and program adjustments can be made. The grant of the Global Partnership for Education will support Kenya’s Education Information Management System to enable the country to produce reliable and up-to-date data.
Our first day in Kenya ended with an eye opening meeting with the staff of Uwezo, a non-governmental organization whose innovative, low-cost, household level learning assessment program, now operating in 9 countries across Africa and Asia, promises to revolutionize the way assessments are done.
Uwezo’s methodology is citizen led, volunteer based and is already measuring actual levels of children’s literacy and numeracy in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and other countries.
Key to Uuwezo's success is its community-based nature, which engages and trains village volunteers to administer assessments and then fosters a robust debate within these communities as the findings are communicated to all.
This exciting model offers the government, the Global Partnership and indeed all partners in the sector, an opportunity to rethink what can be done on learning assessment and data collection with a relatively small budget.
Visiting schools provides insight into progress and challenges
During our visit, we went to several public and non-governmental schools in the greater Nairobi area to learn how they are working to improve both access to basic education and, literacy and numeracy levels.
Among these was a public school in the West Langata area, whose administration and teachers are piloting mobile technology to support reading and numeracy competency programs. Initial results are promising and we were advised that the effort is lifting historically low reading and comprehension across numerous grades and classes.
A more basic approach was evident at the Spurgeons Academy Early Child Development Center in the Kibera district, a non-governmental charity founded in 2000. Fourteen government-trained teachers provide basic instruction to 380 students, mostly vulnerable orphans. Some of the children, as young as 3 years old, are HIV positive. Teachers at this school often play the role of surrogate parents and social workers as well as educators.
In the end, the visit confirmed that the successful implementation of the new grant of the Global Partnership to Kenya depends on the continued strong engagement of our numerous partners in the country and vigilance of its leadership. I look forward to returning to Kenya over the next four years to remain apprised of its progress.