Socio-Cultural and Economic Factors Affecting Primary Education of Maasai Girls in Loitokitok District, Kenya

Article excerpt

Background of the Problem

United Nations (1993) and Children's Act (2001) recognize that education is a basic human right that every child must enjoy. Kenya is a signatory to these and other international conventions. The International Convention on Human Rights (1948), Article 26 (1) as well states that everyone has the right to education and that education shall be free at least in the primary stages. Further, it declares that primary education shall be compulsory.

Evaluation of Education Achievements (IEA), shows a gender gap in favor of boys in many Western and Eastern Europe, Asian and North American countries (Comber and Keeves, 1973; Keeves and Kottee, 1999). A survey of this magnitude has not been conducted in African countries though studies done in Kenya by Eshiwani (1984) and Kinyanjui (1993); in Nigeria by Jegede (1996); in South Africa by Trusco (1994); in Uganda and Tanzania by Mbilinyi (1985) showed that there are gender disparities in educational opportunities and achievements, with females being disadvantaged. However, the education of girls and women is seen as essential to achieve equitable development. Mwiria (1997) pointed out five compelling reasons for investing in the education of women. First, literate women are more likely than illiterate ones to promote the education of their children. Second, it ensures gender equity as educated women have more access

to formal employment than their illiterate counterparts. Third, educated women serve as role models for their children and girls in general, thus enhancing the latter's chances of enrolling in school. Fourth, educated women add to the pool of human resources available to nations confronting the difficult challenges related to environmental degradation, ignorance and disease. Fifth, increasing female literacy by 10% has the potential to lower infant mortality by the same percentage or more. According to Schultz (1961), education of women has more social returns than that of males. Similarly, the Forum for Africa Women Educationists (1998) notes that the total benefits of education multiply where there is increased female participation in schooling.

Kenya's educational policy on girl's education has been spelt out in several documents, including development plans, commission reports, working party reports, and session papers (Yildiz, 2000). All these documents emphasize the primary goals of education. Moreover, the dispersed nomadic lifestyle of some ethnic groups within the country was seen to be a major obstacle in the provision of equal opportunities of education to all Kenyans. In 1973, a presidential decree abolished tuition fees for pupils in classes one to four throughout the republic. In 1998, another presidential decree abolished fees in primary schools in all classes and for all public schools in the republic. The decrees altogether resulted in significant enrolment in primary education, it took the country much closer to achieving universal primary education (Ibid). In January 2003, primary education was declared free for all implying that the government of Kenya would directly incur the cost of education. There was a massive increase in enrolment from 6.2 million to 7.4 million. However, it is estimated that approximately 3.3 million children within ages 6 to 14 are still out of school (UNESCO, 2003). Eliminating fees is not enough; more needs to be done to keep poor children and orphans in school, especially the female students.

The policy framework for Education, Training and Research Session Paper No. 1 (2005) sets specific objectives for education. The following three are relevant to Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASAL) like that of Loitokitok:

* To ensure that all children including girls, children in difficult circumstances and those from marginalized groups have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education by 2010.

* To ensure that learning needs of all children are met by 2015. …