The Presidential Working Party on Education and Manpower Training for the Next decade and Beyond (the Kamunge Commission) started its work in 1986. Chaired by James M. Kamunge, the team published its final report in 1988. Its members were:

Kamunge Commission Members

  • James M. Kamunge (chairman)
  • Prof Bethwel A. Ogot (vice chairperson)
  • Dr Benjamin E. Kipkori
  • Prof Philip M. Mbithi
  • Solomon W. Karanja
  • Dr Julia A. Ojiambo
  • Jared B. Kangwana
  • Samwel S. Maneno
  • Ambrose A. Odongo
  • Rev John G. Gatu
  • Bishop Raphel Ndingimwana a’Nzeki
  • Tom D. Owour
  • Ben E. Mwangi
  • Aron K. Kandie
  • John W. Githuku
  • Benjamin K. Kipkulei
  • Elaine N. Mukuru (Secretary)

Kamunge Commission Recommendations

The team recommended in-service courses for school inspectors, who would also be required to upgrade their academic and professional qualifications.

It recommended payment of full boarding and feeding fees for students in public schools, training institutes and universities.

The team proposed the scrapping of personal allowances given by the Government to students in colleges and universities, establishment of more day secondary schools to expand access and recruitment of qualified personnel for pre – schools.The team proposed compulsory primary education and called for the abolishing of categorization of schools as high and low cost.

Secondary schools developed and equipped by the Government and with teachers paid from public funds were to be designated as public schools.

University education was to be expanded to produce more professionally qualified graduates for secondary school education. Untrained primary teachers were to get in service training.

The Kamunge Commission wanted Bachelor of Education programmes in universities to take five years, growth in university standard enrolment be matched with the educational resources and the development of public universities be coordinated and harmonized. It also proposed admission of day university students and the creation of the Kenya Education Staff Institute.

Kamunge Commission Report Implementation

The Kamunge Commission Report was acted on almost to the letter by the Government, altering the financing of education and relieving the Government part of the burden of financing education.

A major impact of the implementation of the Kamunge Commission report was the rise in the cost of education for parents and guardians, resulting in high dropout rates and persistent repetition of classes.

The Kamunge Commission Report Video

Kamunge Commission – Primary education

In this decade, enrolment in primary schools rose from 4.3 million in 1983 to 5.4 million in 1993. Enrolment, however, dropped by 1.8 percent in 1993 as in the previous year, it had stood at 5.5 million which was the highest figure in that decade.

By then the gains that were realized, with the introduction of the Second Free Primary Education were steadily eroded with introduction of the 8-4-4 system of education. Whereas 890,000 pupils had enrolled in Standard 1 in 1983, only 384,500 sat the KCPE in 1990, a dropout of about 60 per cent of the initial enrolment.

Dropout rates were highest in the lower primary, while repetition rates were recorded in upper primary classes. The average transition rate from Standard 7 to Standard 8 from 1987-1993 was 70 per cent. However, the number of primary schools increased from 11,955 in 1983 to 15,804 in 1993, while the number of primary teachers colleges rose from 17 to 25 during the same period.

Kamunge Commission Report and Recommendations
Kamunge Commission Report and Recommendations

Kamunge Commission – Secondary Education

The first batch of the 8-4-4 system of education sat KCSE in 1989, the year that the last group sat the Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education exam. The two groups were considered for university entry in 1990.

Amid plans to restructure the education system, the Kenya Junior Secondary Education (KJSE), an examination sat mostly by harambee school students at Form 2 was abolished in 1985. The Kenya Certificate of Education (KCE) was done for the last time in 1987, paving the way for KCSE in 1989.

Enrolment in secondary schools climbed from 494,000 students in 1983 to 531,342 in 1993. The number of secondary schools also increased from 2,230 in 1983 to 2,639 in 1993. However, in 1990, the Government took a bold decision to integrate all harambee secondary schools into the national public secondary education system.

By 1989, harambee schools made up about 30 per cent of secondary schools in the country and the Government was under pressure to fulfil one of its promises of providing equitable distribution of education resources under the guidelines of the 8-4-4 system.

The Government decreed in 1990 that all unaided harambee schools were eligible to receive government assistance. A new classification of secondary schools was initiated and the harambee category was dropped altogether.

The national schools category was retained while most of the assisted schools were renamed as provincial schools and the rest, including the unaided harambee schools, were reclassified as district schools. But the most important development was the integration of harambee schools into the public secondary school education system with government support in the form of teachers and regular supervision.

Kamunge Commission – St Kizito Mixed Secondary School tragedy

School strikes took a tragic turn in 1991 when 19 girls at St Kizito Mixed Secondary School, Meru, died in an attack by the boys. In the attack that caused national and international outrage, more than 70 girls were raped after declining to participate in a strike organized by the boys. The male students retaliated by invading the girls’ dormitory. The school was temporarily closed and has since been renamed St Cyprian Secondary School.

Kamunge Commission – Technical and vocational education

Vocational education was institutionalized in the curriculum with introduction of the 8-4-4 system of education.

Whereas several pre-vocational subjects were introduced in primary education, a raft of vocational and pre-technical subjects were introduced in secondary schools, such as agriculture, business studies, computer studies, home science and industrial education (building and construction, electricity metalwork, drawing and design, power mechanics, woodwork and aviation technology).

The objective was to prepare high school graduates for the world of work and provide a foundation for further training in relevant post-secondary training institutions.

By the early 1990s, demands for the review of the 8-444 system of education, and more so its pre vocational component in primary schools, increased.

The main complaint was that the need for home science classrooms and workshops increased the cost of education. Further, few teachers were ready or trained to teach vocational skills.

Subsequently, most schools have dropped the vocational subjects,which are offered as options.

Kamunge Commission – Post-secondary technical education

Although there were problems in vocational education offered in primary and secondary schools, enrolment in post-secondary technical institutions remained stable.

By 1993, the three national polytechnics, Kenya Polytechnic, Eldoret Polytechnic and Mombasa Polytechnic, had 9,000 students in various fields.

The 18 technical institutes also had a total of 7,891 students, while the 17 institutes of technology had a combined enrolment of 5,281 students.

Kamunge Commission – Expansion of university education

The third decade of independence is quite significant in the development of university education in Kenya. In 1981, President Daniel arap Moi had appointed the Presidential Working Party on the Second University in Kenya under the chairmanship of Prof Colin B. Mackay to prepared etailed plans of a new university in the country.

Although the committee finished its work the same year and came up with a blueprint of a new university, it was not until 1984 that Moi University was set up. In addition to recommending establishment of Moi University, Mackay Report urged the Government to elevate Kenyatta University College, which was a constituent college of the University of Nairobi into a full-fledged university.

By 1993, Kenya had four public universities, University of Nairobi,Moi University, Kenyatta University and Egerton University. There were also two university colleges, Jomo Kenyatta University College of Agriculture and Technology, a constituent college of Kenyatta and Maseno University College, a constituent college of Moi. A brief history of the established universities during the third decade of independence is as follows:

Kamunge Commission – Moi University

Although Mackay’s, committee issued its report on September 1981,it was not until 1984 when the Moi University Act received presidential assent and saw the Department of Forestry of the University of Nairobi transferred to the new university.

Consequently, the inauguration of Moi University took place on December 6, 1985.

The first 85 students of the university were accommodated at Kaptagat Hotel Where they stayed in tents pitched at the lawn of the hotel. Thereafter, tremendous development took place in terms of construction of physical facilities,student enrolment, staff recruitment and development of academic programmes.

However, as a result of a double intake that occurred in 1990/ 91 in order to accommodate the entry of the first batch of the KCSE graduates under the 8-4-4 system of education and the last group of students to sit for the KACE, a constituent college was established to cope with increase in student population. Siriba Teachers Training College and the Government Training College, Maseno were amalgamated and converted to Maseno University College, While Moi Teachers College was turned into Chepkoilel Campus.

Kamunge Commission – Kenyatta University

University of Nairobi also expanded its reach with its oldest constituent college, the Kenyatta University College becoming a full-fledged university.

The history of Kenyatta University began in 1965 when the British government handed over the Templar Military Barracks to the newly independent government of Kenya.

The barracks were then changed into a college known as Kenyatta College to offer secondary education and teacher education.

However, in 1970, the college was elevated to a constituent college of the University of Nairobi, following an Act of Parliament and renamed Kenyatta University College. Subsequently, in 1978, the Faculty of Education was moved from the University of Nairobi to Kenyatta,becoming the only institution training teachers for both under-graduate and postgraduate levels in the country.

In 1981, Mackay report advised the Government to elevate Kenyatta University College into an autonomous full-fledged university. Following those recommendations and increased demand for university education, in 1985, the parliament passed Kenyatta University Act and Kenyatta was firmly set up as an autonomous university.

In 1988, the Government through a Legal Notice gazetted Jomo Kenyatta College of Agriculture and Technology as a constituent college of Kenyatta University and changed its name to Jomo Kenyatta University College of Agriculture and Technology.

Kamunge Commission – Egerton University

In 1979, the Government elevated Egerton Agricultural College into a constituent college of the University of Nairobi with the express mandate to offer degrees in agricultural sciences and home economics.

Originally, Egerton Farm School was founded in 1939 by Lord Maurice Egerton of Tatton, a British settler whose aim was to prepare European youths in Kenya for careers in agriculture.

By 1955, the name had changed to Egerton Agricultural College and was offering certificate and diploma course in agriculture.

Soon afterward, the college opened its doors to people of all races in Kenya and other African countries. In 1987, the college was recognized as a chartered public university under the name of Egerton University.

Cost-sharing in public universities from independence in 1963 until mid-1970s, public higher education in Kenya was offered free to the students as in most other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The rationale for free higher education was based on the country’s desire to create quickly highly trained manpower that could replace the departing colonial administrators. In return, graduates were bonded to Work in the public sector for a minimum of three years.

However, cost-sharing at the University of Nairobi and its constituent college of Kenyatta dates back to 1974/75 academic year when the Government introduced a loan scheme for all students. But many students and their parents continued to regard university education as free leading to the prevailing low recovery of these loans.

But in 1991, the Government introduced an enhanced cost-sharing scheme that required students to pay in full or in part through a direct charge depending on their need for tuition, food and accommodation.The move was a response to the ever declining state budget, which did not keep pace with high student intake when the first cohort of the 8-4-4 of students entered the university in 1990/91 academic year.

Under the new policy, they were required to cover both modest tuition fees and contribute to the costs of maintenance.

The introduction of direct charges was a Wake-up call that in the context of growing enrolments and diminished funding, the Government could no longer finance university education without compromising academic standards.

The introduced mode of cost-sharing in public university education Was part of the Structural Adjustment Programmes prescribed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Kamunge Commission – Student militancy

The untoward causes of student militancy and frequent riots that occurred in Kenya’s public universities during the third decade of independence could only be explained as end results of declining of national resources. The causes were also rooted in disappointment and distrust between the Government and students.

Declining national resources occasioned by economic melt down of the time as well as bulging enrolments had put the Government under intense pressure and it was unable to provide a high standard of living as that that was enjoyed by students and staff during the first and even the second decades of independence. According to Prof Everett Standa, the chairman of Vice-Chancellors Committee on Causes of Disturbances and Riots in Public Universities, inadequate funding to meet physical needs of the students, poor food and overcrowded hostels played a major in the chain of events that led to closures in 1980s.

As already pointed out, the debt crisis of the decade led to the Structural Adjustment Programmes of the World Bank that were presented as conditionalities to be adhered to if the Government was to be put on the list of aid beneficiaries. During the entire period, universities operated on a stringent budget and students and staff became more militant.

The problem was intensified by lack of learning resources such as books, journals and laboratory equipment became chronic.

Kamunge Commission – 1993-2003

During the first two decades of independence, the Kenyan state was characterised generally by uncontrolled expansion of formal education at all levels. During that period, the Government introduced two regimes of free primary education. The Government had reacted to public demands made on education and supported local harambee initiatives. This was a period that the Government showed commitment to providing educational opportunities to all children and in perspective the state was able to expand schooling and to promote its legitimacy as being a modern and compassionate nation.

However, from thereafter, the Government’s legitimacy was eroded by a long period of economic stagnation and unemployment that extended up to the fourth decade of independence. Besides, in the early years of Moi presidency,the original emphasis on harambee as a grass root movement took a more direct political tone, when the line became blurred between genuine‘ fundraising activities to boost education and campaigns by politicians to advance their chances to enter parliament. By 1993 , harambee fatigue had set in and fundraising barazas had declined throughout the country.

Nevertheless, economic decline led to a severe shortage of resources to the extent that the Government could no longer afford to subsidise the coast of secondary schooling for students in public secondary schools. The result was erosion of quality of education in secondary schools as government called for greater cost – sharing in education.Subsequently, school committees such as Boards of Governors (BoG) and Parents and Teachers Associations (PTAs) were empowered to collect school fees and often disregarded minimum school fees structure from the Ministry of Education.

As a result some of the better public schools became exclusive province of students whose parents who could afford to pay high fess. Most of students from poor economic households who could not afford the fees in those schools had to seek placement in lower quality schools.In a nutshell, the fourth decade of independence was characterized by serious distortions in education than any other period since independence. According to educational researchers at the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, high dropout rates and repetition rates reversed the gains that had been achieved in previous years.

There are indicators that in the larger period of the fourth decade the Government was unable to develop educational policies to improve quality or combat declines in enrolment rates, dropout – rates and repletion rates. However, it was during this period that gender gap in enrolment levels narrowed considerably. It was also during this period that private participation in primary education increased to sizeable levels.

But most significant, it is during this period that the Government introduced the Third Free Primary Education Initiative in 2003. Consequently, enrolment rose by 17.6 percent from 6.1 million in 2002 to 7.2 million in 2003. The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) rose from 92 percent to 104 per cent of the primary school going population.

Kamunge Commission – Educational policies

The expansion of educational opportunities has been the primary objective of the Government since the attainment of independence.

However, from the early 1990s, enrolment declines were observed and many stakeholders faulted the 8-4-4 system of education, which was blamed of re-introducing a colonial-like system of education that encouraged social stratification in equalities.

Launched in 1985, the 8-4- 4 system emphasized vocational subjects and it was assumed that it would enable school dropouts at all levels to be self-employed or to obtain employment in the informal.

But by 1993, the Government was under intense pressure to reform the 8~4—4 system of education orto debunk it altogether. In order to address some of those concerns, in 1998, the Government carried an internal audit through the Master Plan on Education and Training,1998-2010 and Commission of Inquiry into the Education System of Kenya of 1999, popularly known as the Koech Commission.

Master Plan on Education and Training (1998)

Master Plan on Education and Training (1998) was an internal audit that Was carried by the Ministry of Education to try and introduce reforms in the 8-4-4 system of education. The initiative reviewed the identified problems and noted that the solution was not to abandon the 8-4-4-4 system of education,as most of the problems that were not necessarily from the education sector but emanated elsewhere in the society.

Subsequently, the panel that carried the audit highlighted the role of education as that of addressing issues beyond provision of vocational skills but to include aspects of mental, attitudinal and social abilities. They noted that development of education in the next decade and beyond should be engaged in expanding access, raising completion rates, retention, and raising relevance and quality at all levels.

The panel called for down – sizing of the 8-444 curriculum by making it more manageable, affordable and related to the needs of the learner. It was also recommended that pressure be reduced on household expenditure on education by increasing public financing on primary and secondary education.

Noting that education system was riddled With limited access,gender disparities, high drop out rates, and poor academic achievement, the panel issued five policy guidelines:

  1. Decentralizing the planning, financing and management of secondary education to local government authorities, boards of governors and other school committees.
  2. Increasing of education and training opportunities for the youth.
  3. Raising transition rate of primary school leavers to secondary education to 70 per cent in 2010 and by 100 percent in 2020.
  4. Raising the relevance and quality of education in all secondary schools so as to increase equity with regard to achievement.
  5. Increasing efficiency in resource mobilization, allocation and utilization.

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