The Western-made stereotypes surrounding education systems in Kenya are very well-known, though the reality of Kenya’s education system is much more complex than one might believe. The common stereotype reflects the impoverished and “under-resourced” population of students that are subjected to a lesser quality of learning. What many people fail to recognize is that many of Kenyan students are multilingual, which developes high attention spans, global understanding, and allows students to express themselves in more creative ways. While Western education is often thought of a preferable or better than other forms, less than 20% of Americans are bilingual.
Now, it isn’t to be ignored that Kenya holds the ninth-largest population of students not enrolled in school. This is in part due to the widespread poverty in Kenya, which is seen in Kibera, the largest slum in the country, where students often drop out of school to support their families financially. Thankfully, the Kenyan government was worked to lessen the number of students out of school, and between 2003 and 2012, the number of enrolled has exponentially increased in the millions. After working to solve the education crisis in Kenya, the question shifts to what educational standards should be in place to ensure that Kenyans are properly educated and set up for success.
Due to the influx of students in higher institution programs, many universities have seen an increase in the cost of a college education paired with a decreased education value. This is an issue specifically for students in Kibera, who don’t have the financial stability to pay for an expensive college education. As education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, it is crucial that the Kenyan government addresses the issue of rising costs of education.
The unfair parallel of high cost and low education value is due to the Western pressures spilling into Kenyan culture that say that college is a prerequisite for success. However, in Kenya, the largest demographic of successful people do not need a full college education. Instead, many only need knowledge of financial literacy and how to spend and save money. If this is implemented in primary and secondary schools throughout Kenya, then those who are unable to afford a college education, like many Kiberan residents, would understand how to spend and save money once in the workforce, allowing for a more promising financial future.
Kenyan students already hold extreme advantages due to their worldly knowledge through multilingualism and their abilities to be culturally adaptive individuals. Instead of attempting to find ways for everyone to get a post-secondary education, there needs to be a larger push to incorporate basic financial literacy lessons in primary and secondary education. Though K-12 education in Kenya lays the groundwork for literacy and teaches basic arithmetic, it doesn’t ensure that they are prepared for the life of a business owner or entrepreneur, which are two very common careers in the poorest places of Kenya, like Kibera.
Though we Americans would often look at the implementation of this as dissuading students from receiving a college degree, it limits the student loan debts that many would hold after attending a university. This is especially crucial in a country that still faces poverty. By integrating financial literacy into the mandatory schooling years, citizens will receive the necessary recourses to create successful lives free of student loan debt. By continuing to increase student enrollment and bolstering primary and secondary school curriculums that cover topics and skills needed in the workforce, the Kenya government will be taking a step towards ending the cycle of poverty in Kibera and giving Kiberan students the education they deserve at no cost.