Education in Kenya

Oldest Primary School Student in the World

Kenya has the distinction of being home to Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge, who holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest person to start primary school. When he learned that schooling had become free he enrolled in first grade in 2004, at the age of 84. Having been a farmer all his life, Maruge, who is now a widower, grandfather of 30, a great-grandfather, and a former combatant in the Mau Mau Uprising against the British colonizers in the 1950's, decided it was time to learn to read. In 2005, he distinguished himself as a model student by being elected head boy of his school. In September 2005, Maruge boarded a plane for the first time in his life and headed to New York City to address the United Nations Millennium Development summit on the importance of free primary education.

His life took another dramatic turn when his property was stolen during the 2007-2008 post-election violence and he contemplated quitting school. He lived in a refugee camp four kilometers from his school, but still attended classes every day. He then relocated to Nairobi to a retirement home; however, soon after his move on June 10, 2008, Maruge enrolled once again into grade 6 at the Marura primary school located in the Kariobangi area of Nairobi.

Free Primary Education
In 1963 the Kenyan government promised free primary education to its people. This promise did not come to fruition until January 2003. In all, some 1.3 million new students flooded Kenya's primary schools that day in January 2003, making good on a key election campaign promise by the new president, Mr. Mwai Kibaki. The promise fulfilled was the elimination of fees at the country's 17,000 public schools--and taking the East African country a step closer to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for education. In education MDG's require countries to provide a complete primary education for all children, reduce adult illiteracy, and achieve gender parity at all levels of education no later than 2015.

Now that education is free, attendance has increased, but the schools were ill-prepared to deal with the strain on the system. There is a shortage of teachers and classrooms with children not getting sufficient attention since they may have a teacher/student ratio of 1:100 in the classroom. This is a result of both children attending that could not afford to before, and children being taken out of lower-tier private schools in order to take advantage of free education. This has created demand for low cost private schools where parents who could afford to pay the fees can send their children to learn in a better environment. The large private school sector, which caters by and large to the middle and upper classes, generally follows the British O-level and A-level system after primary school.

8-4-4 System
Kenya introduced the current 8-4-4 system in 1985. It was created to help those students who do not plan to pursue higher education. It has helped reduce the dropout rates, as well as helping those that leave primary school find employment. Grades one through eight are in designated as primary; which is compulsory and constitutes ages 6 through 14. At the end of the eight years students are tested in order to receive the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. Secondary is made up of grades nine through twelve, comprising ages 14 through 18. If they pass the culminating tests at this level students receive the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education or KCSE. Only about two percent of the students attend higher education.

Enrollment in Universities
Kenya has six public and 13 private universities with an enrollment of about 50,000 students. Roughly 80% are enrolled in public universities, while 20% of the total university student population attends private universities. More than 60,000 students enroll in middle-level colleges. The middle-level colleges cater to a variety of post-secondary career courses leading to certificate, diploma, and higher diploma awards. By 1990, Kenya had about 160 middle-level colleges; by 2000 it was estimated that the country had more than 250 of them.

Although Kenya has its own universities, some parents choose to send their children to different countries. Many believe that the United Kingdom has the best universities, and that it would be a great opportunity for their children to attend there. Kenyan universities are also more difficult to get accepted to due to the extremely high demand for higher education and not nearly enough room.

**Of particular note for those working on this project is the history of the individual for whom Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology was named. In 1963, Jomo Kenyatta became the first Prime Minister of self-governing Kenya, and at midnight on December 12, 1963, at Uhuru Stadium, amid world leaders and throngs of people, the Kenya flag was first unfurled. A year later on December 12, 1964, Kenya became a Republic within the Commonwealth, with Kenyatta, as the President. Kenyatta is regarded as a leader of vision, initiative, and guidance, who brought political stability and ecnomic progress to Kenya. He is referred to as "Baba Wa Taifa" which means "Father of the Nation." He passed away in 1978 at the age of 89 years while on a working holiday in Mombasa.

References: geninfo/afrec/vol19no2/192_ pg10.htm Education_in_Kenya soe/cihe/inhea/profiles/Kenya. htm