Contextual influences in female and male schooling: the case of Igembe and Imenti north districts
The goal of the study was to understand the role of household and community factors in male and female educational attainment in two rural districts in Kenya. The study focused on four educational transitions namely: non-entry into formal education; dropout prior to completion of primary school among children who ever attended school; exit after completion of primary school; and high school dropout. Data was collected from a probability sample of 1200 young people aged 1524 distributed equally across the two study sites, that is, Igembe North and Buuri districts. Logistic regression was the main analytic method used because all the dependent variables were dichotomous. Although the bulk of the study was based on quantitative data, some qualitative data was collected from key informants who were education officers as well as people who had exited from the formal education system at each of the exit points under study. Household’s economic ability as measured by wealth index (computed from household ownership of durable goods and assets using principal components analysis) emerged as the most powerful explanatory factor in all the educational transitions. At the community level, district of residence is the strongest predictor of dropping out of school before completion of the primary level of education. However, the variable is not a powerful predictor of exiting after completing the primary level. Female respondents have 43 percent lower odds for dropping out of school during primary school years relative to male respondents but they have higher odds for dropping out of school after completion of the primary level. However, there is no statistically significant relationship between gender and high school dropout. Household economic status is the most powerful explanatory factor in educational attainment but non-income factors too are important predictors of school dropout. The study further concludes that the context in which schooling occurs (as measured by district of residence) and gender of the learner are important explanatory factors in educational attainment. The study recommends contextualization of interventions meant to increase pupil retention and completion at different levels. This should be coupled with strict enforcement of education for all principles which necessarily involves elimination of unofficial fees and harmonisation of official fees. Equally important is the need for targeting of the poorest households for extra support beyond the generalised free education programme through local support mechanisms such as the Constituency Development Fund. Targeting of interventions should also take a gender dimension to the extent that male and female children have different odds for exiting from the education system at different stages. The boy child is more affected at earlier stages in life while the girl child is affected more adversely at later stages. As noted earlier, these patterns may not hold in every context in the Kenyan society, which vindicates the need for targeting of interventions based on empirical data from the local communities rather than on data aggregated at national or regional level. The study recommends interventions that broadly seek to ensure that all children not only enrol in school but also successfully join and complete high school. Such an endeavour should address all exit points in general but pay special attention to early exit points because children who get out of school at such stages can as well be considered to be “gone for good”. Their chances for poverty reversal are negligible. Although this thesis is based on a sample of 1200 respondents, which was sufficient for advanced statistical analysis, multivariate analysis of correlates of non-entry into primary school and high school dropout could not be carried out because very few respondents dropped out of school at the two stages. This is a positive finding because it means that an overwhelming majority of children in the two districts get enrolled in formal education system and that those who manage to get to high school rarely dropout. However, the handful who are not enrolled at all into the formal education system as well as the few who drop out at high school constitute an important and unique group whose problems should not be ignored. More qualitative research to shed light on their circumstances is recommended.