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Title:The dynamics of female access to formal schooling among pastoralist communities in Kenya: a case of turkana district in northwestern Kenya
Author(s):Johannes, Mary E.
Director of Research:Darder, Antonia
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Darder, Antonia
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Anderson, James D.; Span, Christopher M.; Amutabi, Maurice
Department / Program:Educational Policy Studies
Discipline:Educational Policy Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
marginalized womne
Kenya education policy
Abstract:Abstract In the Kenyan government’s Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1965, entitled African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya, it was clearly stated that “Education must serve the needs of national development and prepare Kenya’s youth with the knowledge, skills, and the expertise required to enable the young population to collectively play an effective role in the life of Kenya while at the same time, ensuring that opportunities are provided for the full development of individuals advancement.” The objectives of educational opportunities for the population of Kenya outlined in the Sessional Papers are well defined but are not enjoyed by the nomadic pastoralists of Northwestern Kenya. On the whole, Kenya has achieved an impressive national literacy rate of 86% for men and 70% for women since gaining independence in 1964. However, regional and gender disparities exist, and of concern are the high dropout rates of girls compared to boysThe national completion rate for girls in primary school is 35%, while it is 55% for boys. The rate is lower in pastoralist districts such as Turkana, where the completion rate for girls stands at 3% and 4% for boys. Of the 35% of girls who complete primary school in Kenya, only 22% go on to secondary school compared to 45% of boys. In Turkana district, the dropout rate is about 94%. Several factors exist for this gender disparity. There is a serious need to address the dropout rate, particularly since education for women and girls correlates with fertility rates, health and nutrition as well as a general wellbeing for the whole family. Special emphasis should be made in education for girls coming from pastoralist communities like Turkana, especially in the prevailing difficult economic times where most families must invest their limited resources in education for their sons at the expense of their daughters. In addition, in regions such as Turkana, the costs of educating the girl child is higher than educating the boy child. Turkana traditions demand that girls be married so that parents collect the dowry, or “bride price.” Turkana girls are required to assist with house chores which include collecting fire wood, water, looking after small herds and administering care for young siblings. These duties are demanded less from boys. Although the government of Kenya asserts that educating nomadic pastorals families on the value of education for girls will help increase girls’ enrollment in schools, no progress has been made to fulfill their promises. This study outlines the major constraints facing Turkana girls and women in education in Turkana district of Northwestern Kenya and makes an effort to identify ways in which the main problems can be solved. Socio-economic status, cultural issues, education policies and factors related to the school environment as major constraints hindering girls from accessing and retaining are considered. The study employed a combination of survey and naturalistic designs, and used a sample size of 95 individuals that was comprised of parents, education officials, head teachers, and teachers and students in both rural and urban Turkana. Instruments used to collect data were questionnaires, direct observation scheduling, document analysis and in-depth interview scheduling. Data from informal interviews were also incorporated. The collected data was coded in a spreadsheet using Microsoft™ Access. The research established that although the population in Turkana district is evenly distributed between males and females, statistics in education revealed inequalities, with more males in schools than females. Further, males dominated leadership positions, teaching positions and health care positions. In schools where data was collected, the study found that there were no schools where female students out-numbered male students. The environment in Turkana District is harsh, that is, dry, hot, and remote. Those outside the district consider it a “hardship area,” which means that it lacks resources and adequate infrastructure. In spite of these disadvantages, the District is expected to compete equally for places and opportunities with other school districts. The trouble with such a policy is that rather than uplifting and implementing policies that benefit these populations in education, the policies of competition instead continue to marginalize the already marginalized students by requiring them to compete for seats in higher classes. In other words, students in Turkana district are measured on the same stick as those who come from more affluent and privileged areas of Kenya. Kenya’s higher educational institutions have no affirmative action in place for students from Turkana district and as a result, students from the district, in particular girls, have never had the opportunity to pursue medical studies. Consequently, less than 5 students--all male--from nomadic pastoralist communities have been admitted to medical schools in Kenya and for those who receive such opportunities, their education takes place outside the district. On the basis of these findings, the researcher recommends the following: • Although boarding schools exist in Turkana, they are in very poor condition. As such, they should be rehabilitated. • Schools in Turkana district need to encourage girls to fully participate in classroom and school activities and as such, schools should take every measure to enforce policies on sexual harassment and the use of words and gestures that demean the dignity of schoolgirls. • Education cannot be achieved if the importance of it is not realized by the community. Therefore, awareness of the importance of education should be created to assist in this process. Seminars and workshops are some of the ways in which this can be accomplished. • All stakeholders need to develop and implement adequate mobile schools with Turkana teachers who are able to provide instruction in the language spoken by the students. • Although this may alarm those concerned with assimilation policies, more adequate boarding schools in Turkana district would serve the population well, as they would retain students. Areas for further research include the following: 1. The study covered education access in Turkana District of Northwestern Kenya. Similar studies should be done in other pastoralist districts, especially studies that address gender roles and the impact of body beautification on access to social services. 2. In addition, further studies need to be undertaken to validate Turkana women’s needs to access education equally.
Issue Date:2010-05-14
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Mary Eliza Johannes
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-05-14
Date Deposited:May 2010

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