This article has been published in Enabling Education 8
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Post-Primary Education, Kenya

Hellen Obande

Kenya must address the issue of transition in education for primary school leavers if it is to meet the EFA goals.

Kenya’s commitment to EFA
Kenya is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which proclaim that education is a basic right for all children. Realising that free and compulsory education is key for achieving universal education, the Kenya Government introduced its free primary education policy in January 2003. However Education For All (EFA) will remain an uphill task, unless the issue of transition from primary to secondary school is addressed.

Kenya’s education system offers eight years in primary, four in secondary and four in tertiary education. Before January 2003 there were over three million out-of-school children. The cost-sharing policy in education had made schooling unaffordable, and pushed many children out of school and into work. An estimated 1.3 million of those children went back to school as a result of the new policy.


The issue of transition is of grave concern. Large numbers of children are unable to proceed with post-primary education. Just over half a million candidates sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Examinations (KCPE) at the end of 2003, yet only 46 per cent had the chance to proceed to secondary schools.

Although the number of candidates enrolling for primary level examinations has steadily risen, the number of secondary schools has remained the same. Unless this issue is addressed, Kenya will be dealing with an explosion at the end of 2010, when the children who enrolled in 2003, with the abolition of school fees, will be taking their primary level examinations.

Vocational training
Currently the secondary schools can only absorb 200,000 children, yet an estimated 700,000 will be jostling for placement in secondary school. There are alternatives for children who cannot proceed to secondary school, such as vocational training. A recent symposium organised by ANPPCAN Regional Office identified some of the challenges regarding vocational training:

  • negative attitudes towards skills training
  • lack of clear policy on technical and vocational training
  • poor financial support for skills training
  • primary school graduates are too young for employment and cannot access financial assistance for technical training institutions
  • poor staffing levels in training centres.


  • Extension of basic education
    This could be extended from eight to12 years. This would give every Kenyan child an opportunity to attain a minimum of secondary school education. The country could work with partners to extend make this education free and compulsory.
  • Expansion of secondary education
    The government should expand secondary education countrywide, and strongly control fee payment. Currently, the fee ceilings provided by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology are not adhered to. Effective monitoring is needed.
  • Non-formal training opportunities
    Training opportunities in the non-formal sector need to be enhanced and revitalised to meet current needs. The government needs to have a clear policy on non-formal education, ensuring the certification of graduates and helping change attitudes towards non-formal education. The participation of girls and children with disabilities needs to be addressed if all children are to benefit from technical and vocational training. Key to this is the need for the government to subsidise post-primary education for children with disabilities.

Civil society must continue advocating for the relocation of government resources to target the 54 per cent of children who cannot access secondary education. There is a need to lobby for increased budgetary allocation by the government for education, particularly technical education, if the goals of Education For All are to be met.

ANPPCAN is a pan-African organisation, whose mission is to prevent, and protect children from, all forms of maltreatment – thus ensuring that there rights are realised. ANPPCAN has various programmes: child rights and child protection, combating the worst forms of child labour, early childhood education, and community organisation. ANPPCAN has a broad objective of building the capacity of government and community structures to combat child labour by initiating programmes that help children at risk of joining hazardous work, and support those who have withdrawn from work.

Hellen Obande is ANPPCAN’s Advocacy Officer.

Contact her at:
ANPPCAN Regional office
PO Box 1768 – 00200