Poor access to education promoting systemic injustice

RTXO0EA_Thomas MukoyaBy December 2010, Kibera had 228 non-formal schools with a population of 26,400, compared to only four public schools with a population of 6061 pupils. Slum children are in dire need of education but circumstances and obstacles placed ahead of them make it impossible to perform well.

Currently, schools are classified in three categories in Kenya, according to the Ministry of Education standards. The non-formal schools, registered under the department of Social Services, under the Ministry of Labour. Second, private schools registered by the Ministry of Education but owned by individuals, religious institutions or NGOs. Thirdly, public schools, registered by the Ministry of Education, and managed by either local authorities or the central government.

Non-formal schools are not recognized by the ministry of education, but they follow the same syllabus and sit for the same national exams, as private and public schools. The difference between private and non-formal schools is the registering government departments and the administrative structure. Most private schools are popularly known as academies, and they charge huge sums of money as fees, the poor cannot afford.

Non-formal schools, become the remedy, since they charge between Ksh. 2000- 5000 per year, making it a viable option for a slum parent, hoping to educate his child, as the only hope for combating poverty. Non-formal school fees buy food for pupils, pay teachers, and any other bills to be settled by the school, making it almost impossible to employ trained teachers and retain them.

Kibera Children study under difficult conditions
Kibera Children study under difficult conditions

Most non-formal schools are in squalid conditions. Lack of desks, books, skilled teachers, classrooms and even toilets characterize these institutions. A classroom is shared by three different classes, taught by a single teacher. The lucky ones, the classrooms are partitioned by a bed sheet or some kind of linen, but the learners have to content with writing on their laps.

Pupils struggle to make the ends meet. When they score averagely, they are sidelined when it comes to selection to national secondary school opportunities. Sheldon Achwanyi, a parent from Kibera says what the ministry of education is a systemic injustice, contemning the poor to maintain the status quo.

A simple analysis of the public schools in Kibera reveals that one class has over 70 pupils and the ratio of pupil to teacher is seriously wanting.  For instance, Olympic Primary has a population of 2851 pupils, with 31 teachers. Simple arithmetic here indicates, the teacher – pupil ratio is 1: 92. On the question of whether what the government calls free primary education is indeed free, the answer is simply amusing.

Pupils at Olympic Primary are placed in three main tiers.  Class 1-3, 4-6 and 7-8. Tier one pays Ksh. 100 tuition fee per month, and additional Ksh.10 each Saturday.  Tier two pays Ksh. 200 and additional Ksh. 20 each Saturday while tier three pays Ksh. 300 per month and additional Ksh. 30 each Saturday.  These figures are exclusive of any other money paid for food and such other dues.  Mtaani Insight learned that the same system is replicated in all other public schools around Kibera and beyond.

At the end of the term, the parent whose child is in a public school ends up parting away with about Ksh.1500 per month for his child’s schooling. The question of how free is free in the public primary schools remains…

Maybe we should just go ahead and create a private government to run affairs for private citizens whose only craving is a better life for themselves and their offspring!”


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