Challenges Facing Kenya in Achieving Education for All

Anthony M. Wanjohi:

Despite the Kenya’s government efforts towards the realization of Education For All (EFA), it continues to experience a number of challenges. These include gender disparities, high poverty levels, Teacher supply and quality, HIV/AIDS Pandemic and Inadequate financial resources.


Gender Disparities

The girl child continues to be in vulnerable situation.  Parental gender bias, cultural norms, negative impacts of HIV/AIDS pandemic and poverty continue to impact adversely on the girl child’s participation in education. The world has made continuous progress towards gender parity showing that gender differences in education can be overcome through public policy and changes in attitude, but there is still a long way to go as only 59 out of 176 countries have achieved gender parity in both primary and secondary education. Gender equality in educational opportunities and outcomes is the most challenging to achieve and is inherently more difficult to measure. Clearly much remains to be done. Many Sub-Saharan Countries (Kenya inclusive) are have miles to go before they achieve gender parity and equity in education (EI, 2009).


Future prospects on the girl child education depends on the following factors if EFA goals are to be realized: added commitment by all the stakeholders to the girls education, enough and targeted funding by government and donors to the girl child education, strengthening the gender unit by allocating enough financial and material resources, strengthening the capacity of the National Task Force on Gender and Education by allocating financial resources for activities, incorporating gender programmes in pre-service and in-service teacher training, advocacy for the girl child education be intensified, appointment of more women in key administrative positions at school and policy making level, strategies and plans to address the major disparities identified at primary and secondary school level be formulated (UNESCO, 2000).


High Poverty Levels

Most countries were hopeful that opportunities provided by strengthened democratic governance, and improving economies will accelerate progress.  However, poverty levels still remain high. On becoming a republic in 1964, Kenyan leaders vowed to eradicate poverty, disease and illiteracy. Today the proportion of the population living on less than one US dollar a day, that is the poverty line, is higher than ever before (Sisule, 2001). With high poverty line, compounded by economic crisis, prevalence of HIV/AIDS pandemic, it could be just a mere dream to attain Education for all by 2015. Poverty has been recognized as one of the factor that affects education.


Teacher Supply and Quality

Delivery of good-quality education is ultimately contingent on what happens in the classroom, and teachers are in the front line of service. The most important determinant of educational quality is the teacher. Thus education can be improved through supply of quality teachers (EI, 2009). This remains the role of government. It is estimated that the world will need approximately 18 million additional primary school teachers

by 2015. The most pressing need is in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 3.8 million additional posts must be recruited and trained by 2015. This remains a challenging task for Kenyan government. Today, teacher-pupil ratio is still high and teacher demand and supply remain a major issue. Good quality education depends in part on reasonable class sizes and Pupil/Teacher ratios (PTR). Yet the GMR (2008) reveals that there are large regional and national disparities in PTRs. The approximate ceiling PTR usually used is 40:1, but there are large regional and national disparities.


Research shows that there are a number of factors that affect teacher demand and supply. One of the key factor is teacher motivation which is affected by other inherent factors like salary. According to GMR (2006), many countries face a crisis of teacher morale that is mostly related to poor salaries, working conditions and limited opportunities for professional development. Other problems include the doubtful use of contract teachers and the lack of evidence for introducing performance related pay structures. Kenya is a victim of such. Thus there is all likelihood that the state of affairs can only persist (as we move towards 2015), hence making the achievement of EFA by 2015 a mere wishful thinking.


In regard to teacher deployment, there is need thus to address equal distribution of primary teachers in districts, carry out registration of all pre-school teachers as a symbol of recognition of ECCDE have all untrained teachers trained through in-service courses, put in place adequate staffing norms at all levels to make maximum use of teachers, define the concept of a teacher as a professional within acceptable professional principles (UNESCO, 2000).


HIV/AIDS Pandemic

In many countries, the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS on education systems continues to be inadequately addressed in education planning. “In many cases the focus has been on curriculum reform in education to include teaching on HIV/AIDS prevention rather than an integrated response aimed at addressing the multiple disadvantages faced by children affected by HIV/AIDS.” (GMR, p.192). Education systems could play a key role in creating awareness and curbing HIV/AIDs pandemic and thus increasing school enrolment. For instance in Kenya, access to medicine for families living with HIV/AIDS has improved school attendance.


Despite this impact, many governments in Sub-Sahara Africa have not even developed policies aimed at supporting children who live with HIV or who have lost parents to the disease. AIDS-affected children are failing to go to school, and it’s because their governments are failing them. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are more than 12 million children orphaned by AIDS, not including the millions of children whose parents are terminally ill. While overall school enrollment rates have risen to approximately 66% in the continent, AIDS-affected children have been systematically left behind. According to the report,  children suffer de facto discrimination in access to education from the moment HIV/AIDS afflicts their family. Children leave school to perform household labor or to bereave their parents’ death. Many cannot afford school fees because their parents are too sick to earn a living (HRW, 2005).


HIV/AIDs has not only have had effect on children but also teachers. HIV-related health problems lead to teacher absenteeism (UNESCO, 2005). Although the government has made certain effort in catering for their needs of the infected teachers, the impact could still be far much reaching in terms of provision of quality education.


Inadequate Financial Resources

Financing Education For All (EFA) remains one of the core challenges facing many developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these governments depend upon donor support which more often than not, come with strings attached (EI, 2009). These government and oftenly financially strained due to a number of factors ranging from political and economic instability to weak governance. Thus they are not able to support sustainable implementation of Education for all. Kenya continues to face a number of challenges following the introduction of Free Primary education in 2003 and Free Secondary Education in 2008. These challenges are mainly associated with lack of adequate teachers (human resources), and equipment and facilities (physical resources) (UNESCO, 2005). The root cause of all these challenges is lack of adequate financial resources. Kenya is not about to be free from its state of ‘need’, thus pushing far the dream of Education for All by 2015.



If Kenya is to achieve Education for all by 2015, the following are the key areas that require particular attention. These include Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCDE), Primary Education, Secondary Education, Training in other Essential skills required by Youth, Special Education, Girl child education, Non-Formal Education NFE (out of School Education, Adult Education, and Curriculum Development. Various tangible measures have to be put in place through combined effort not only from government, but also involving other development partners.



Education International (EI) (2009). Education For All by 2015. Retrieved November 24 from


Global Monitoring Report (GMR) (2007). Education for All by 2015 Will we make it? Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved November, 24 2009 from


Human Rights Watch (HRW) (2005). Letting them Fail: Government Neglect and the Right to Education for Children Affected by AIDS. Retrieved November, 20 from


Sisule, T.P. (2002). Poverty in the Eyes of Poor Kenyans: An Insight into the PRSP  Process. Tegemeo Institute, EgertonUniversity.


UNESCO (2000). The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports. Retrieved November,  20th from


UNESCO (2005). Challenges of Implementing Free Primary Education in Kenya: Experience from the Districts. UNESCO Nairobi Office, March, 2005. Retrieved November, 20 2009 from