Extra levies introduced by schools are denying girls from slums and semi-arid areas an opportunity to pursue their education despite the introduction of free education by the government in 2003, a study has revealed.
A report by Education Development Trust dubbed Disadvantaged ‘Girls in Kenyan schools’ and which was released last week, indicate that schools still demand extra money for items such as extra morning or evening prep lessons in upper primary, and for exam fees.
“Both the cost of school fees and extent to which the fees were aggressively or supportively collected by the school affected the girls, and was linked with the likelihood of dropping out,” states the study that was conducted in Turkana and slum areas in Nairobi between 2014 and last year.
On several occasions the government has warned school heads against charging extra levies, a directive that has been ignored both at primary and secondary school levels.
This financial year, the government allocated about Sh14 billion for free primary education and Sh28 billion for subsidised secondary education.
The study adds that poorer girls in Nairobi slums and Turkana have lower enrolment and completion rates, as well as lower learning outcomes.
“Time for learning (including girls’ access to extra lessons): girls were often excluded (inadvertently) from learning opportunities, particularly in Turkana,” states the report.
It adds that: “The girls in Turkana were very keen to attend boarding school in order to have more time for learning, but their families could not afford the fees. Extra lessons appeared to work for some girls in some schools in Nairobi.”
The problem of absentee teachers also emerged with the report indicating that absence was common, and teachers were often not present for the full lesson time and did not follow the timetable in Turkana County.
“These behaviours limited the productive learning time available to both girls and boys.
However, the situation was better in Nairobi,” adds the report noting that there was also a high level of headteacher transition: many of those who participated in this study did not like working there and wanted to leave.
The report also notes that government schools are rare in the slums, as these are not recognised by the state as formal settlements in need of services.
The study involved visiting a total of 16 schools (eight in Turkana and eight in Nairobi slums) for two days each in term two of the 2014 school year.
In Nairobi the schools selected were in the slum areas of Kibera, Mathare, Embakasi and Makadara. Six were low-cost private schools (informal) and two were government-run schools.
In Turkana the schools selected were from the South or Loima districts. All were government schools and two had boarding facilities.