Thursday, January 26, 2012



By Mercy Gathoni Njugu
Nairobi, Kenya

Achieving gender parity at every level of education is a key requirement of the Millennium Development Goals. A few years ago there was such a big disparity in enrollment, performance and eventually graduation between girls and boys.
Over the years as a result of cultural changes, government intervention and other measures the disparity has greatly reduced.
While announcing the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education results, The Minister of  Education Sam Ongeri announced the gender ratio during the 2011 KCPE Examination stood at 51.6% boys:48.4% girls which was an indication that we had almost achieved gender parity at a

Despite the dramatic expansion in primary enrolment, there are still some issues that need to be addressed such as high drop-out rates of female students, and gender disparity which remains high in some counties .Mandera district for example had 70% boys and 30% girls who sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education according to the 2011 results.

There are over 1.7 million estimated school-aged children who remain outside the education system. Many of these children are nomadic pastoralists in the dry and sparsely populated northeast.
To reach these students, the government, together with UNICEF and other donors, is experimenting with a range of innovative but costly projects. These include mobile classrooms, greater numbers of boarding schools and feeding schemes, and outreach to parents and community leaders about the importance of providing their children particularly their daughters with a formal education.
The girl child remains vulnerable to many social challenges that affect education opportunities.
In an exhaustive study of strategies for attracting African girls to school and keeping them there, World Bank researcher Eileen Kane reported in 2004 that girls’ enrolment and dropout rates are much more likely than those of boys to be affected by circumstances such as the distance to school, class size, adequate sanitary facilities, school security and lunch programs. The absence of female teachers has also been a disincentive for girls and their parents.
Poverty, early marriage and the need for household labor on the farm or at home, contribute to higher drop-out rates among older girls .According to statistics from the Ministry of Education, it is shown that while a greater percentage of boys drop out of school in standards 1–5, girls are more likely to leave in standards 6–8. This is mainly caused by early marriages, child labor or even pregnancies. Reaching and maintaining gender parity is therefore a challenge in Kenya.

Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in education is still possible in Africa and in other developing regions, This can however be achieved if the government continues relentlessly to come up ways of overcoming challenges that bring about gender disparities. The involvement of the international community cannot be ignored and they should also continue assisting in this endeavour. Community and religious leaders have a role to play to ensure that parents engaging in cultural practices that interfere with the girl child’s education are well informed and persuaded to enroll and maintain the girls in school.
“Study after study has taught us that there is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls.
 No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, improve nutrition and promote health, including the prevention of HIV/AIDS.”
– Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General