MAKUENI DISTRICT PROFILE: HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT, 1989-1998
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This paper sets out the results of a survey conducted in four villages in Makueni District, Kenya that was used to examine the nature of the family and its decision- making, and to test hypotheses on the linkages between family investments in education and its income-earning strategies and investments. The average size of the resident family in the District is small, and is closely linked to two non-residents. The average farm labour force in households surveyed was only 2 adults, typically middle aged or elderly. Many adult children now working outside the homestead provide some financial support to their original households. Education for the young is seen as an investment priority and, for many households, it is more important now than 20 years ago. Although households in Makueni District have incomes lower than the average Kenyan income the numbers of primary and village polytechnic places in the zone has risen over the last ten years. This has happened in spite of the fact that, apart from teacher salaries, there is no longer any government financial support for these schools, and the upkeep of schools falls to the local communities. Despite increasing worries amongst many parents that their educated children will not find work, Makueni District has some of the most impressive national examination records in Kenya, and secondary education, which costs parents much more, is just maintaining recruitment levels, with the proportion of girls enrolled rising. Involvement in self-help or mwethya groups is widespread, but concentrated in the older age groups, as the young are at school or away. Many groups are small and informal, and the funds derived from them are used for a wide range of purposes, including consumption needs and investing in both farming and non-farm businesses. The family is set to experience more change in the future, since parents now aim for much smaller families than in the past, illustrated by survey data which shows the size of families that young people and parents now prefer. The changes in attitudes towards family size are attributed to the rising costs of living, rather than to the impact of family planning programmes.