Free Primary Education in Kenya
The provision of universal free primary education in Kenya has been recognized as an important milestone to economic and social development.
In particular it has been established that by providing primary education to women, a society is able to hasten its development.The government of Kenya, since January 2003, managed to implement free primary school education programme, this has seen a tremendous increase in the number of children, 738,500 (Econ.Survey 2005)
Free Primary Education Policy in Kenya
The Government has increased its budgetary allocation to education as well as introducing a Constituency Bursary Fund for efficient facilitation of education at the grassroots level.
The history of free primary education in goes back to 1974 and later in 1979 when the Government launched free primary education programmes aimed at achieving free and universal primary education. Lack of funds derailed those two initiatives but in 2003, Government reintroduced free primary education.
Primary education is the second level and caters for children age between six and 13. Pupils sit for the Kenya Certiﬁcate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination after eight years of learning. The objective of primary education is to attain education for all and Millennium development Goals by 2015. In pursuit of this, the Government introduction of the Free Primary Education Programme in 2003, resulting in enrollment rising from 5.9 million in 2011 from 8.8 million in 2009.
Effects of free primary education in Kenya
There are 26,667 primary schools compared to 26,206 in 2008. 70 per cent of the schools are public Primary school completion rate increased from 60 per cent in 200I to more than 70 per cent in 2008 In the 2010-2011 Budget, the free primary education programme got Sh9.2 billion ($115 million. It is fully ﬁnanced by the Government.
Access and equity education that will lead to of the Millennium Devel-Goals by 2015. Some of the objectives are to implement Primary Education, increase in Early Childhood eliminate adult illiteracy of learners with The directorate’s units Education, Education, Special Needs and Education adulits.
First Free Primary Education in Kenya initiative
The Government of President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta made the first step towards providing seven years of free primary education in 1971 through a presidential decree that abolished primary school tuition fees in the arid and semi-arid districts which were lagging behind in education since colonial days.
Those areas included North-Eastern Province, the districts of Marsabit, Isiolo and Samburu in Eastern Province; Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Narok, Elgeyo-Marakwet and Ol Kejuado in Rift Valley Province, and Tana River and Lamu in Coast.
Subsequently, a second presidential decree was proclaimed on December 12, 1973, providing free education for children in Standard I-IV in all public schools in the country. The decree also set a uniform fees structure of Kshs 60 for children in Standard V-VII and promised to abolish school fees altogether in the near future. School fees was successively abolished, starting with Standard 5 in 1978 and by 1980, the entire public primary schooling was free of formal school fees.
Challenges Facing Free Primary Education in Kenya – FPE 1
Although the ﬁrst free primary education initiative brought about a substantial improvement in recruitment rates, it also led to a dramatic rise in dropout rates. The main problem was that whereas schools were directed by the Government to accept all young people who applied for admission, without the payment of any formal fee, non-fee charges continued to be levied to cater for construction and maintenance of rural primary school buildings and teachers’ houses. This was nothing new as during the colonial administration local communities were mainly responsible for those services.
But from 1974, the burden of new construction became unbearable, seemingly because the increased enrolments needed additional physical facilities. Although it was foreseen then, the demand for new school buildings led to an escalation in construction costs. The building levy varied from one district to another, but in most cases, it turned out to be higher than the school fees charged prior to the decree. The school building fund that was meant to be a stop – gap to cater for new entrants became a permanent feature. This frustrated parents who had little alternative but to withdraw their children from school.
The continued socio-economic vulnerability of communities in marginalized areas also contributed to children from such areas dropping out of school. In most circumstances, children from such communities became strong candidates for dropping out, simply because their parents often lacked personal experience of formal schooling, or merely had no resources to keep their children at school when non-fee levies increased.
Nevertheless, the high dropout rates were a response, not only to the very high levies, but also to the quality of education that was being offered following the Government intervention. The FPE1 was affected by quality of teachers, their supply and distribution.
Whereas in 1974 untrained teachers in primary schools accounted for only 22 per cent of the total teaching force the proportion had risen to 33 per cent and in 1976 to 37 per cent. Consequently, most of the untrained teachers were posted to rural and other marginal areas where the impact of free primary education was greatest. Without help of experienced teachers. Most children quickly dropped out of school.
The sudden influx of new recruits, some of them past the official school-entry age led to overcrowding classrooms and severe shortages of core textbooks and other learning materials. Desks were inadequate and many pupils especially the new entrants had to learn in dilapidated buildings and under trees and often sitting on the floor or on stones.
Even then, little was done to accommodate the learning needs of the older pupils. They were usually taught in the same classes as the regular six-and seven-year olds, from materials, which had been developed with the needs of the younger learners in mind. This aspect contributed to older students dropping out of school.
Second Free Primary Education in Kenya Initiative – FPE 2
After the death of President Jomo Kenyatta in 1978, one of the first major actions of his successor,President Daniel arap Moi, was to launch a new free primary education initiative in 1979. The direct imposition of building levies and other non-fee charges on parents was prohibited and schools were required to raise funds for construction and maintenance through community-based harambee activities.
At the same time, the Government introduced a free school milk programme.
As in the 1974 FPE programme, the Standard One enrolment in 1979 rose sharply to 977,000 from 599,057 in 1978, representing an increase of 63 per cent. The number of pupils who enrolled in Standard One in 1979 was slightly higher than those that had enrolled in 1974.
In 1978, school entrants aged eight years and above were 118,000, which was about 20 per cent of the total Standard One intake but in 1979, the number jumped to 274,000, representing about 30 percent of the much larger intake.
Challenges Facing Free Primary Education in Kenya – FPE2
In the subsequent period after 1979, many primary schools in the country still had no adequate facilities, such as classrooms and teachers’houses, to cater for the bulging enrolments. Most communities were unable to provide those facilities through harambee.
However, the Government had no counter measures to replace lost revenue in case communities were unable to provide learning facilities. Hence school committees gradually reintroduced parental levies in form of building funds as a complement or to replace the harambee contributions altogether.
Exorbitant building levies frustrated many parents who had little choice but to withdraw their children from school.
Whereas, post-1979 intakes to Standard One continued at levels of about 900,000 every year, survivors to Standard 7 and 8 usually numbered fewer than 400,000 pupils. Dropout between Standard 1 and 2, at the beginning of the schooling cycle, was very severe since about 20 percent of the Standard 1 intake failed to make the transition to Standard 2.
Overcrowded classrooms and shortages of text books and other materials continued to affect the quality of pedagogy, making high drop-out rates became inevitable.
Third Free Primary Education in Kenya Initiative – FPE 3 (2003)
Just like its predecessors, the Third Free Primary Education Initiative was primarily a political decision taken by the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) government that swept KANU regime from power during the 2002 general election. In its manifesto, NARC had promised to provide free primary education.
Following NARC’s victory, on January 6, 2003 the Government launched the Third Free Primary Education to fulfill the election pledge. Tuition fees and other levies were phased out in public primary schools as the Government sought assistance from development partners to meet the cost of basic teaching and learning materials as well as wages for critical non-teaching staff and co-curricular activities.
The NARC government wanted to shift from educational policies of its political predecessor and its intervention saw the Net Enrolment Ratio rise from about 6.1 million the previous year to 7.6 million in 2003, representing a 22.3 per cent increase nationally. Despite some logistical problems that included inadequate classrooms, about 1.5 million pupils were enrolled in primary schools in 2003.
It was introduced in 2003 to reduce disparities and increase access to primary education. The move resulted to increased participation by groups that previously had had little or no access to schooling.
Eventually, free primary education reduced the cost burden on households by providing learning and teaching materials to public primary and non-formal schools. The interventions increased enrolment in public primary schools from 5.9 million in 2002 to 8.8 million in 2009. The government has spent slightly more than sh 50 billion on free primary education since its inception.