Education & Jobs

8-4-4 schooling

Schooling in Kenya is broken into three stages – eight years of primary, four years of secondary and four years of university – so it’s sometimes called the 8-4-4 system.

Children at school in NairobiEntrance into secondary school requires pupils to pass the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education.

Education is highly valued in Kenya and a priority for most governments. Free primary education was introduced in 2003, with free secondary schooling following in 2008 (although parents still have to pay for food, transport, uniforms and materials such as exercise books).

Kenya has high rates of literacy, with over 90% of young people (15-24) able to read and write.

However, the introduction of free universal education also put a huge strain on resources. When free primary education was announced, 1.3 million new students were signed up for school in the first few weeks.

The rapid expansion of the education sector has led to overcrowded classrooms and high pupil to teacher ratios (an average of 60-1 in 2008). Secondary school and university places are also limited. Many middle-income families are therefore turning to private schools and colleges for their children’s education.

Finding a job

Among poor Kenyans, the extra cost of supporting a child in school can be a huge burden, especially when children are needed to help the family earn a living. Non-attendance at secondary school level is therefore common and few children complete their secondary education (only 150,000 annually).

Korogocho slums, Nairobi
Korogocho slums, Nairobi
Parents and youngsters question how far an education leads to work anyway. Unemployment is high in Kenya (at around 40%) and particularly among the young who make up a large proportion of the population (over two-thirds of Kenyans are under 25 years).

In the capital, slums are crowded with out-of-work youngsters. Even if they find some work, a day’s labour typically offers as little as three dollars pay.

Many Kenyan’s seek work abroad (nearly half a million) or sign up for higher education courses elsewhere (30,000 young Kenyans leave each year to study overseas).

The movement of Kenyans abroad leads to a much-talked-about ‘brain drain’ of professionals leaving the country, which affects vital sectors such as the health service. However, many families rely on the income sent home by relatives working abroad, which the World Bank estimates at around 1.7 million dollars each year in total.