A Study of Education and Resilience in Kenya's Arid and Semi-Arid Lands
This study uses a resilience framework to ask how various education systems in the arid lands are helping or hindering young people and their societies to absorb shocks, adapt to and minimize stresses, and transform in positive ways when confronted with internal change and external pressures. The question is based on the concept of peacebuilding, in which it is assumed that people and societies are resilient when they accommodate adversity through complementary absorptive, adaptive and transformative capacities.
The report conveys the perspective of a wide range of people, including those who learn in secular and religious schools, those who have just left them, teach in them, manage them ands end their children to them, and those who are given a traditional education by parents and elders. The fieldwork was carried out in Marsabit, Wajir and Turkana Counties of northern Kenya, from March 2014–August 2015.All three counties have low levels of enrollment, low retention and poor performance in formal education.
Four sites were selected in each county to encompass variations in urbanization, administration, economics and environment, and various types of schools and forms of education provision. The method involved open-ended discussions inside and outside schools to establish key issues, followed by structured group discussions and interviews to probe and identify causes and effects, involving a total of 909 people. Parents in the arid lands want their children to receive a good-quality education and are prepared to invest in it, but they say that state education is failing almost all of their children. We find that problems with quality, content and accessibility are perpetuated as much outside the schools as inside them. Parents, elders and out-of-school youth are looking for ways to take the issue in hand. Key findings related to these issues include:
- Most children are not in formal schools. In Wajir County, for example, only 27.2 percent of primary-school-age children and 9.3 percent of secondary-school-age children were in school in 2014, according to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST). Parents are making a clear choice for alternatives such as pastoralist or religious education and many express the opinion that these forms are more accessible, and economically and culturally relevant.
- Many schools suffer manipulation and negative politics. Politically motivated teacher transfers, uneven distribution of resources and poorly sited Constituencies Development Fund schools undermine education quality. Only those children whose parents have money and connections can access a high-quality state or private school education and hope for a good job at the end.
- Many school leavers feel economically and politically marginalized from the rest of Kenya. Most of the young people leaving secondary school are not finding secure jobs, yet feel unable to return to the rural areas. Instead, many are ‘hustling' in town. A rising number of young people who have been to school are turning to drugs and crime, or joining Al-Shabaab and other insurgent groups.
- Pastoralism is the economic mainstay of the three counties, yet schools do not teach subjects relevant to pastoralism, and many portray a negative image of the livelihood. Parents, youth and community leaders are organizing a growing numbers of initiatives to secure the kind of education they want. Pastoralists, in particular, are starting schools that allow herding education and formal learning to take place hand-in-hand.