Academic journal article International Journal of Comparative Sociology

Self-Help Secondary Education in Kenya

Academic journal article International Journal of Comparative Sociology

Self-Help Secondary Education in Kenya

Article excerpt


Education has been viewed as a critical factor in development, especially with reference to the development of human resources for socioeconomic growth.(1) Thomas (1992:19) argues that "education is assigned a priority role for its ability to effect the transformation of the people as individuals and groups, to promote social equality, and to strengthen national identity, thereby fostering the nation's political development and historical maturation."(2) Fuller (1991) has persuasively argued that education is viewed as a panacea for societal problems in both rich and poor nations, a fact supported by a considerable number of recent empirical studies that demonstrates the positive effect of education on economic development in both developed and underdeveloped countries (Delacroix & Ragin, 1978; Fagerlind & Saha, 1989; Fuller, Gorman & Edwards, 1986; Fuller & Rubinson, 1992; Walters & Rubinson, 1983). Over and above, education is positively associated with improvement in the physical quality of life, encompassing lower child mortality, lower fertility, healthier families, and improved environmental health.(3)

Inspired chiefly by the belief that education, through its output of trained manpower, is an important element in fostering economic growth, many Third World governments encourage their citizenry to seek more education. It is noted by Fuller (1991) however that the state encounters severe constraints in providing these services. In this respect, he argues that state resources are out of step with the growing enrollments, a situation that has led to overcrowded and dilapidated schools, and poorly trained and underpaid teachers (Fuller, 1991). Under such circumstances, the specialized attention that needs to be given to the training of future participants in the labor force often becomes no longer possible in the indiscriminately large class rooms that result from accelerated educational expansion. A major concomitant of these developments, which forms the principal theme of this paper, is the persistence of high levels of inequality within the education system.

The paper examines the following questions relating to educational inequality in Kenya: First, what underlying factors explain the persistence of educational inequality in Kenya, and why has inequality within the education system become particularly accentuated during the 1970s to the present day? This issue is of profound importance because, despite expansion of secondary education in Kenya, the overall provision of education remains inadequate in relation to equity considerations. The impressive quantitative expansion of schooling has not made educational opportunities evenly accessible across the sexes and across regional and social groups.

Second, (i) what role is played by the state, on the one hand, and civil society, on the other, in the provision of secondary education? (ii) How has the role of these two key actors in the provision of educational resources changed overtime, and with what results? Bradshaw (1993) points out that, at a time when Western sociology is paying additional attention to the state, many poor countries are tending toward heavier reliance on nonstate actors to facilitate educational expansion and other forms of development. Citing Bratton (1989), and Walton and Ragin (1990), he remarks that the already limited capacity of poor states has been further eroded by deepening Third World indebtedness and severe structural adjustments, which result in government austerity programs. He thus reiterates a point raised by a number of Third World development scholars that local communities, social organizations, ethnic groups, and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) often formulate their own development and survival strategies in the absence of strong states, even if such strategies conflict with state policy (Bratton, 1989; Bunker, 1987; Migdal, 1988).

Third, why has it not been possible for the state-civil society partnership in educational expansion to eradicate the problem of educational inequalities in the country? …

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