Youth Education & Development Issues in Kenya

Kenya's education system is based on an 8-4-4 system—eight years in primary school, four years in secondary school, and four years in tertiary education. Despite the Kenyan government's declaration of a Free Primary Education (FPE) policy, over 1.7 million children still remain out of school, the majority of whom are street children living in slums or in marginalized pastoralist communities. Informal or alternative basic education is viewed as "second class" education, and does not receive the recognition or acceptance required to be optimally effective.

While Kenya did implement universal primary education—meaning that eight years of schooling are provided free—additional costs of uniforms and books prevent many from attending school. Families who are able to pay for these primary school costs (and forgo the opportunity cost of not having their children work) often can not afford the fees to pay for secondary school. Secondary schooling, which properly equips children for the next level, is extremely expensive and rarely accessible in underserved areas. At the root of the problem is a drastic decline in education funding and social services by the Kenyan government and international donors.

The easily visible result is that a large percentage of Kenyan youth only have a basic level of education, few usable skills, and minimal employment opportunities. The poor education system and subsequent idleness of these adolescents create a dangerous combination that frequently leads to drug abuse, early pregnancy, crime, and other at-risk behaviors. Similar to education, a decline in spending on social services has led to minimal care available to children who have been orphaned, leaving them highly vulnerable to exploitation and disease.

In his book The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, Jeffrey Sachs emphasizes the need to reverse the trend of reducing education spending and, instead, invest in cultivating intellectual capital to reduce brain drain and support economic growth with an educated population. Such development was accomplished by several countries in Asia who, 30 years ago, were in similar stages of development as several African nations, including Kenya.

FSD partners with organizations that fill the educational gap, supplying communities with affordable primary and secondary education, while offering vocational skills training and social services for underserved youth. Extracurricular activities are also cultivated to mobilize children. FSD interns and volunteers have supported programs such as drama groups that use theatre to educate street kids about life skills; girl's soccer teams that act as a catalyst for empowerment; and youth leaders training programs to help youth become peer educators and counselors. These sorts of activities and programs are ways in which FSD can contribute to the education, care, and empowerment of vulnerable youth throughout Kakamega and Mombasa.

Read more about Youth Education & Development programs and opportunities initiated by our Community Partners in Kenya.

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