Growing number of primary school graduates in Northern Kenya

Published February 23, 2015 by Naomi Senda

Teacher Abdullahi Jille helps a student during a class session.Teacher Abdullahi Jille helps a student during a class session.

The deadline for registration for the national examinations for primary school candidates in Kenya is fast approaching. Still, the list of candidates aspiring to register and sit their national examinations this year from Adeso’s Mobile Non-Formal Education Centre in Jaldesa, Marsabit County, grows by the day.

“Don’t be surprised, this list is but a fraction of those interested in registering for the KCPE [Kenya Certificate of Primary Examination] this year,” explained Mr. Abdullahi, the teacher in charge at the Jaldesa Non Formal Education Centre less than ten kilometers form Marsabit town. “The final list will be available by the end of this month.”

In Marsabit County, like in many other arid and semi-arid regions of Eastern Africa inhabited by pastoralists, enrollment in formal education institutions is quite low. This is largely due to the high levels of poverty that prevail, coupled with the migratory pastoralist lifestyle.

Unfortunately, Kenya’s ‘free primary education’ system implemented in public schools still requires pupils to pay additional costs, including for uniforms, books, and to support volunteer teachers. As many families cannot afford these costs, many pupils are forced to drop out of formal education institutions.

At the same time, others are prevented from attending school due to domestic tasks, including herding the family’s goats, while many young girls are subjected to early marriages, forcing them to leave school early.

Fatuma Hussein, one of the students from the Jaldesa Non Formal Education Centre registering for the KCPE exams dropped out of class 7 in 2014 after her mother and her elder sister passed away. This forced her to stay at home and take care of her younger siblings.

“Despite not been able to attend class the whole day like my former schoolmates, I am determined to continue with my studies and sit my exams this year,” she said.

Fatuma learned about the non-formal education program through her teacher, Mr.Abdullahi, who walks around the village talking to the community about the project. His aim is to convince young people to sign up for the classes. Fatuma aspires to be a teacher after completing her education.

Also registering for this year’s KCPE exams is 18-year-old Gideon Godana, who dropped out of his final year in primary school after his parents were unable to pay the fees required. Gideon works as a herds-boy for his neighbor. In the morning, he takes the cows out for grazing, while in the afternoon he attends classes at the Jaldesa Non Formal Education Centre.

Gideon met Mr. Abdullahi on the roadside as he was herding cattle in December 2014. When the teacher told him about the program, the idea interested him and he decided to join. Gideon aspires to be a car mechanic when he completes his education.

The MNFE project works to ensure that all children and youth can not only go to school, but can also acquire the knowledge and skills they need in a bid to lead healthy, productive lives, secure meaningful jobs, and contribute to society. The project focuses on boosting literacy levels among the community.