Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Incidence of School Dropout in Bungoma County, Kenya: Factoring the Language of Instruction

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Incidence of School Dropout in Bungoma County, Kenya: Factoring the Language of Instruction

Article excerpt

Introduction

This paper presents and discusses findings of research about the possible role of language of instruction in school dropout incidence. The research was conducted at Siuna, Bungoma County in Kenya between June and August 2016.

The motivation for conducting this research was the scarcity of research data that support the claim that the use of foreign languages (e.g. English) for instruction in schools is implicated in learning difficulties, and the eventual dropping out of school by students in Africa.

It has been observed that this problem and related language problems in African schools and in society generally have their origin in the language policies that were adopted by governments of independent African countries (Adegbija (1994), Alexander (2000), Bamgbose (2000), Muthwii & Kioko (2003), Owino (2002), Parry (2000) and Prah (1998).

The problem of low literacy levels in African countries is also attributed to poor language policies. For most African countries, literacy is acquired at school. Muthwii (2004) observes that levels of illiteracy in Kenya are quite high. According to her, the high levels of illiteracy in Kenya have persisted because of the ineffective language policies that are enforced in schools. The policies make it almost a certainty that many students graduate from schools in Kenya without attaining meaningful literacy levels. While it true that there are significant problems with language policies in Kenya, it is not clear that the problem of illiteracy is entirely a function of these policies as claimed by Muthwii (2004).

Muthwii (2004) did provide data to support her argument that language of instruction in school is a factor in ineffective acquisition of literacy, but she does not link ineffective acquisition of literacy to dropping out school by students.

To the best of my knowledge, scholars have not provided sufficient data to support the claim that language of instruction is a factor in the school dropout problem. This study set out to help fill this data gap. Although the role language of instruction in the acquisition of literacy is important in its own right, it is not addressed in this research. The present research focused primarily on the why of dropping out of school by students. I was mainly interested in figuring out the role, if any, of language of instruction in dropping out of school. As will be shown later in this paper, language of instruction has a very minimal, and therefore insignificant role in the school dropout problem.

Previous Work on School Dropouts in Africa

Inoue Keiko, Emanuela di Gropello, Yesim Sayin Taylor and James Gresham (2015) have provided a detailed discussion of out-of-school youth in Africa south of the Sahara. A disturbing finding of their work is that approximately half the youth population in Africa south of the Sahara is out of school ...(p.26). However, there is variation in the magnitude of the problem of out-of-school youth from country to country. Franco-phone countries (e.g. Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Cote d'Ivoire) have the highest incidence of out-of-school youth. The incidence is lower in Anglo-phone countries. There is also variation between countries regarding out-of-school youth who have never attended school and those who have. Franco-phone countries tend to have a larger percentage out-of-school youth that have never attended school than Anglo-phone countries (Inoue Keiko, Emanuela di Gropello, Yesim Sayin Taylor and James Gresham 2015).

This observation notwithstanding, the number out-of-school youth (who drop-out of school) in Anglo-phone countries such as Kenya is quite substantial. In Kenya about 30% of youth drop out of school (Inoue Keiko, Emanuela di Gropello, Yesim Sayin Taylor and James Gresham 2015). This figure is consistent with to the 2014 Daily Nation statistics: only 880,486 pupils sat for Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations in 2014 out of 1,312,206 pupils who enrolled in Standard 1 in 2007 (Daily Nation, 2014). …

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