High School in Kenya: The Challenges

Although free Primary education has been a big step forward, the truth is that the country still faces extraordinary challenges and the majority of students cannot finish the line the government now allows them to start.

primary school > high school > university education > employment

During my first days in-country I begin to hear these stories from students, teachers and their parents. We hear stories of families who save for years to afford the first year of high school fees only to be unable to pay the second. Although there is no official count, high school drop-out rates in Kenya are astronomical. Students study each semester unsure if they will have the money to return for the next.

Illness, unemployment and drought combine to create a daunting trinity of obstacles. There are three dominant narratives:

(1) There are stories of parents passing away. It is often the oldest and most responsible of their children that are enrolled in school and this first narrative ends with that student dropping out, for any work they can find, in order to feed their younger siblings.

(2) There are stories of parents unable to pay school fees after losing jobs

(3) and farmers whose annual income is sunk when the rains don’t come.

Rarely do we hear stories of students who fade away from apathy. Schools in Kenya become great gathering places for children whose homes are scattered in the mountains, it is a guaranteed meal they may not have otherwise. The mind wakes up there, and there are books. The more communities we visit, the more I realize that the schools are the happiest places in town, a center for optimism; and they are quickly evolving into a marker of prestige for those who attend.

This if from a high school student in Machakos, named Joy. In addition to being undoubtedly ambitious, Joy will be one of the first students to join iMentor Kenya this winter.

“We are three in our family. My mother died when I was in Standard Four. Due to the effects of that, my father became jobless and harsh to us. This made my sister decide to get married. My brother went never to come back again. Due to this I couldn’t afford school fees. I stayed idle for the whole year until village members decided to look for funds so that I could learn. Because I passed very well. Then in the year 2001 I joined Form 1 at Kyangala High School. The fees were offered for the first and second years. Afterwards, I don’t know what happened. Right now, in January, I’m expected to have 38,000 for balance and for next term.

I’m very good in school. I score the highest at class work. I’m cool with very best mentionable contact the teachers choose me as the School Headgirl. The principal understands my situation and just keeps me in school with the big balance. I’m very good in games, this year I managed to reach the District level in cross-country. I’m soccer girl’s team Captain and this year we went to Divisionals. I like playing soccer and running. I’m very hard working that even after that idle year I can manage to pass. I’m working very hard in computer as my compulsory subject to become a Dr. in Computer Engineering and Maintenance. My dreams are that one day my habitat will not be Kenya anymore and it’s my prayer to attain all this. I would like to be the light in our family. As we talk now none of my family members is supporting me. But I have devoted myself to work hard so that I can show a lot of concern to them, help them and lead them in the right direction.

Also, I am practicing so I may get a chance to compete in Athletics with those British. In fact, I don’t have time to rest."

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