Factors influencing implementation of free primary education in Kenya: a case study of Teso District
Ikapel, William I
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Although education has always been considered central to the development of both the person and the country, it had been provided in Kenya on cost-sharing basis between the government and the citizenry. While the government employed teachers and paid their salaries, the parents were expected to construct schools and provide the necessary learning and teaching materials. Poverty accentuated by general global economic recession, poor weather conditions, rapid population growth, HIV / AIDS pandemic and other factors deprived both the parents and the government of the ability to sustain quality education. In concert with other poor indicators of education, these factors conspired to make education only secondary to other basic human needs. In 2001, there were about 6.3 million children in school while 3.3 million others were unable to attend school Transition rates have dropped miserably. For every 6 children nationally or 3 children in Teso, who are in primary school, only one will be able to complete secondary education. For the first time in the history of this nation, primary education became free to all children in 2003 when the NARC government came to power. The new government scraped the cost-sharing arrangements and took over the funding of each school's recurrent budget throughout the country. This research is a culmination of an attempt to examine factors that have influenced implementation of Free Primary Education in Kenya and achievements made so far, using Teso district as a case study. The communication strategies adopted prior to implementation were mainly mass mediated messages during the political campaigns in the run-up to the general elections of 2002. The messages were used as campaign tools and delivered either through the media or at political rallies. It was not until it assumed power that the new government was able to develop coherent communication strategies. The media, barazas by the administration, education officials, local politicians and other stakeholders were employed at implementation stage. This study was undertaken using library research, Internet searches and field - surveys. Reference is made to the initiatives In Nigeria and Uganda, which implemented their universal primary education policies much earlier than Kenya. The field surveys were carried out in rural Teso district, 500 kilometers West of Nairobi. Data was collected between September and November 2004 using two sets of questionnaires. One set was administered to 192 parents across the district achieving 100% response. The second set was administered to district education officials achieving 75% response. The justification for this study was that, although FPE was in its second year of implementation, it had not quite taken root. This study sought to examine the major economic, social and cultural factors that influenced this outcome. The FPE policy is applied uniformly throughout Kenya. The results of this study can, therefore, be generalized to apply to other parts of the country. The results will also be useful to policy makers, educationists and planners, researchers, social workers and other stakeholders. The paper concludes that various factors converged to influence implementation of FPE. Communication, as well as social, economic and cultural factors contributed to this convergence. Although a noble idea, FPE faces a number of challenges ranging from socio-cultural attitudes and practices to lack of teachers and classrooms. The adoption of a "pro-innovation" rather than an integrated communication approach before implementation of FPE is partly to blame. An integrated approach ensures that all stakeholders are incorporated in decision making. This approach would help in inculcating an education culture, which seems to be lacking in many people of Kenya. The major recommendations include the need to adopt communication strategies that change people's attitudes and behaviour through structured and coordinated campaigns. There is also need for a legal framework to goad FPE and check intervening factors that would negate achievement of EF A by 2015.