Are Nigerian Public Elementary Schools effective

Learning for an uncertain future

Although Kenya has formally achieved the UN Millennium Development Goal on education, there is a lot missing in schools. The step into the world of work is particularly difficult for young people.

David Kehani is concerned. The tall man is the headmaster of a primary school in Kajiado, a small town with 8,000 residents south of Nairobi. For years David Kehani has been fighting to get more teachers for his public school with 200 boys and girls. However, the national government provides him with only four state teachers. “The children's parents pay private tutors out of their own pocket to help us out. But that cannot be the solution in the long term. Our classes are completely overcrowded, ”says Kehani. In addition, teacher training is often very short and rudimentary. Teacher training usually only lasts 16 months, and didactic courses are rare. Teachers are also poorly paid. For many, teaching is a temporary solution, a stopover in the search for a job. The motivation of teachers and the quality of teaching suffer as a result.

Goal achieved - success is missing

Kenya boasts that it has as good as achieved the UN Millennium Development Goal - “primary education for all” - formulated in 2000. Kenya has actually made great progress in the 14 years: According to Unicef, 84 percent of children of primary school age now attend primary school, 96.1 percent of them until the end. In 2000, only just under 50 percent of all children of primary school age had attended primary school to the end.

According to the UN, “education contributes to economic growth and overcoming poverty”. But that only seems to work partially. Despite the formal achievement of the UN educational goal, Kenya has a major problem with youth unemployment. Overall, the East African country had an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent in 2013. According to a study by the United Nations Development Organization (UNDP), 30 percent of all unemployed in Kenya are between 20 and 24 years old. The unemployment rate is highest among 20-year-olds: it is 35 percent. Women are affected even more often than men.

Kenya, with its high youth unemployment rate, is no exception in Africa. No continent is growing as fast in terms of population as the African one. In Kenya, the population has increased from an estimated 4 million to 66 million over the past 50 years, and it continues to grow. For many experts, the key to tackling youth unemployment lies in education. The Kenyan government reformed the education system in 2003. The public primary school fees were abolished and education should become free for all children. The state schools were then flooded and the number of students skyrocketed. Investments in the education sector, however, failed to materialize. In addition, the school is only theoretically completely free, because expenses for books, school uniforms, pens and other utensils for the lessons have to be borne by the parents.

Where are the teachers?

The examination fees for the central exams at the end of primary school are also high. This is often a problem in the country, as school effectively costs a family a lot of money. And this despite the fact that the equipment in public schools, especially in rural areas, is often rudimentary. In the public school in Kajiado, for example, books and pens are missing, and it is only thanks to Welthungerhilfe that there is a functioning toilet at all. Many parents then switch to private schools. Although these charge a low school fee of around 500 Kenyan shillings per month (five francs), they are better equipped and usually have better trained teachers.

Visit to a private elementary school in Kibera, a slum in Nairobi and one of the largest slums in Africa: teachers sit on stairs and take a break. Children run around cleaning school desks for the upcoming exams. If you do well here, there is a chance of a scholarship for secondary school. The school belongs to a church. Although private and not state-owned, there are often 40 students for one teacher. Lessons take place in simple houses, in the school yard the children play on the clay floor. Some teachers are absent today, and the students do not seem to come to school regularly either. “Some have to help at home, for example to take care of younger siblings,” says Wyclife. He is 25 years old and teaches chemistry, among other things. The number of schoolchildren present every day has nevertheless increased in recent years, he says.

In Kibera, where an estimated 200,000 people live, there is just one state primary school. This is overcrowded. Many parents in Kibera therefore send their children to one of the 200 private primary schools, and financing the school fees is a tough effort. How many of the students in Kibera finish primary school or even attend secondary school is uncertain. Although there are actually many children in school today, there are not many classes. A study commissioned by the World Bank concluded that teachers in Kenya are absent for half of the class time.

Kenyan economists complain that the school system does not make it that the children actually learn anything. The problem is also that the transition from primary to secondary school is a difficult one. Public secondary schools cost up to one franc a day, which for many Kenyans - who only have the equivalent of one franc a day - is unaffordable. Today, just over half of all students go to secondary school after eight years of primary school.

It is also criticized that the material is usually learned by heart. This is also the case at school in the Kibera slum. Wyclife obviously asks for facts and figures strictly according to the curriculum in his chemistry class. He drew a scheme on the board that the children seem to already know. The girls and boys come forward and recite sentences they have learned by heart.

theory and practice

Tania Laden works in Nairobi for the “Livelyhoods” project, which, on the basis of a sales network, aims to find jobs for young people in cities. The “sales” industry has a promising future, says Laden, who has already helped a number of Kenyans to work. She thinks that education is important for the future. But she also says schools are too focused on imparting theoretical knowledge. "Tests almost always take the form of multiple choice," she notes. This means that all too often there is a lack of independent thinking and, above all, the soft skills. "The students hardly learn to question things," says Laden, adding that many employers criticized this and the applicants' lack of professional experience (see interview). According to UN experts, formal education is simply not enough. Access to jobs must be facilitated in order to utilize the economic potential that exists in Kenya and other African countries.

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