Distance Education for Teacher Training

By Hilary Perraton | Go to book overview

11

The external degree programme at the University of Nairobi

Ben Makau


INTRODUCTION: KENYA AND ASPECTS OF ITS EDUCATION SYSTEM

Kenya, an independent nation since 1963, lies on the east coast of Africa, with the equator nearly dividing it in half. Its population, characterised by an annual growth rate of more than 3.5 per cent, was estimated to be about 25 million in 1990. Thus, with an area of 583,000 km2, its population density was about 43 people per square kilometre. The population is concentrated on the southwestern highlands and plateaux, which have fertile soils, adequate rainfall and a mild temperature. Nairobi (500 km from the coast), the capital city, lies on the eastern fringe of this fertile region. Although tourism and manufacturing industries are important in the economy, agriculture plays the dominant role with maize, pulses, coffee, tea, pyr-ethrum, livestock and horticulture being particularly significant.

Kenya’s education system has been greatly influenced by the former imperial link with Britain. For instance, English is the medium of instruction from the fourth year of primary school onwards. Echoing the imperial legacy to an extent, prior to 1984 general education was organised into four sectors: primary school—seven years; lower secondary—four years; upper secondary—two years; and university—at least three years. In 1984 the primary course was extended to eight years, a single four-year secondary course was created, and the minimum duration of university education was raised to four years.

Learner progression through the education system is based on selection in accordance with performance in centrally conducted examinations. Because places in the higher sectors are limited, progressively smaller proportions of students reach the upper echelons of the educational pyramid. Currently, over 90 per cent of the eligible age group is admitted into primary school. Of those who complete primary school, about 40 per cent are admitted into secondary school. Only about seven per cent of secondary-school leavers get places in the country’s state universities.

The University of Nairobi (UON) is the oldest of the four state universities in Kenya. A growing feature of the country’s education is the develop-

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