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Confronting Barriers to Girls’ Education in Kenya

Since Kenya introduced free primary education in 2003, enrolment rates have increased to 84 per cent. However, in some regions, where poverty levels and gender inequality are high, only 19 per cent of girls are enrolled in school.

Confronting Barriers to Girls’ Education in Kenya
July 04, 2016
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In Kenya, where primary education is free, families often must pay for textbooks, uniforms, and teachers’ salaries. Additionally, when children attend school, they are not contributing to the family’s income. These costs and perceived losses make it difficult for families to justify sending a child to school. Particularly in communities such as Nashipai’s, where girls are expected to marry early and join their husband’s family, parents do not readily see how education benefits their daughters or the family.

Nashipai’s family is part of a pastoral community in Kajiado, dependent on their cattle for food and income. During the day, she would look after the cattle, so her brothers could attend school. Even though she lived less than a kilometre away, Nashipai was not allowed to enrol.

The Girl Child Network (GCN), in partnership with Educate A Child, started organising community discussions in Nashipai’s village on the importance of educating girls. During one discussion, the facilitator asked the participants if they knew of any children who were out of school. People laughed and pointed to a man sitting among the group. ‘I live just a few metres from a school, but my daughter isn’t enrolled,’ he quipped.

GCN staff met separately with the father and area chief. Together, they discussed his child’s rights to education and informed Nashipai’s father of the consequences of not letting his daughter attend school. He was trying to be

practical by keeping Nashipai at home, he explained. He had never thought of education as a right. After the meeting, he agreed that the best place for his daughter was in school. He went home and enrolled her in primary school.

Nashipai’s mother was thrilled her daughter would now go to school, remarking, “I am so happy you discovered my daughter and gave her a chance to attend school like the others.” Equally, Nashipai’s father was grateful, saying, “Thank you so much for coming to our village to share how important it is to take all of our children to school. Anybody could have enforced the laws on us, but we’re thankful you taught us first.”

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