Corruption in Kenya’s Education

Tanne writes*

The Free Primary Education (FPE) policy, introduced in 2003, aims to increase accessibility to primary education in Kenya. Whilst student enrollment in primary education skyrocketed afterwards, many have argued FPE reduced educational quality. Kenya’s education system suffers from a high student to teacher ratio, absence of materials, lack of electricity, bad quality of buildings, and unequal treatment of students. Consequently, low-cost private schools have often become a preferred option for parents. Nonetheless, the latter do not provide better quality of education due to the same systematic problems.

In this blogpost I aim to explain how corruption has played a crucial role in complicating Kenya’s development of the educational system, and how geospatial data collection and publication could help solving problems of misallocation.

Corruption in Kenya’s education sector comes in varying forms, from the large-scale scandal in which (international) FPE money for 4 million Kenyan children was misappropriated to lower-level corruption practices such as bribery for entering university without qualification, to ‘sex for grades’, to tribalism in allocating jobs and promotions for teachers. The complex nature and context in which these practices take place, and the contribution of the government to these scandals, could explain why efficiency of the education sector is low and quality is seen to have fallen.

Where education management gets complicated due to a limited number of resources, ICT facilities for optimal management could be a solution. Currently the teacher:student ratio in Kenyan schools is 1:40, 1:120, and 1: 250 for tertiary, secondary and primary levels, respectively. Investing in ICT facilities that distribute geospatial data on educational quality to communities has been proven to be an efficient tool for understanding gaps in Nigeria. Where it allows for 1) sharing knowledge on technology and problems, 2) understanding on where huge funding gaps are, and 3) understanding disparities between regions, transparent publication of the results additionally allows for local communities to understand how much of the money their educational institution spent appropriately. Teachers in non-governmental schools, who often do not show up to work, can this way be held accountable by communities; such bottom-up pressure could reduce corruption.

Though a myriad of challenges is to be overcome to reduce inefficient spending and corruption within the education system of Kenya, mandatory cross-regional data collection by using the available ICT facilities, and consequently transparently publishing the findings towards the education-consuming communities, could be a possible solution worth investigating.

Education offers a path to development. It would be a shame if this opportunity was lost to corruption.

Bottom Line: Corruption has limited the success of Kenya’s Free Primary Education policy. Better data collection and distribution could increase transparency and thereby increase accountability and performance in schools and government ministries where corruption is all too common.


* Please help my Economic Growth & Development students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice :).

Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

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