Pursuing school registration in Kenya

In Kenya, 17% of children are not in primary school at all, a significant percentage considering what this means for the growth, health and prosperity of thousands of Kenyan children and the nation of Kenya itself.

Bridge has hosted a series of events in Nairobi recently designed to focus those in the Kenyan education community on the importance of education reforms which can make a material impact on that situation.

The first was an inaugural Open House in Kenya for stakeholders, politicians and innovators; to celebrate the progress of Bridge so far and help to raise awareness of how Bridge can further support the government’s drive to improve access to education.

The second event was a collection of Bridge pupils, teachers and staff who appeared in front of the Kenyan parliamentary education committee who hosted an influential policy roundtable on regulatory reform.

As in many countries, Kenya has a diverse eco-system of schooling. Within the Kenyan  system there are 2 million children who are in so called ‘informal schools’.  These schools are in areas where families survive on very low incomes, often in under-served and marginalized areas. These are some of the poorest communities in Kenya, but that does not prevent the parents within them having dreams and aspirations for their children. They not only want them to go to school, but they want them to go to good schools so they can break out of the cycle of poverty and lead better lives.

However, because of the nature of an ‘informal school’ many of these parents do not have the security of knowing whether the schools they have chosen will stay open or not, because they are susceptible to the vagaries of the registration process. It is a system where there has traditionally been  no clear path to registration for informal schools.

Fortunately, the Kenyan government is supportive of reform and working with education partners. It is committed to achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 4: access to education for all.

Back in 2009, the government recognized that these informal schools were proliferating across Kenyan communities and decided that they needed to develop a framework to enable these schools to be registered. The current system only recognizes top tier expensive private schools or state schools.

As such, last year (in March 2016) the Kenyan government released the Alternative Provision of Basic Education and Training (APBET) guidelines and many in the education sector were excited. It was an opportunity, finally, for the variety of so called ‘informal schools’ to be registered and to give parents some security and peace of mind.

However, since their publication, the government has not registered a single APBET school.

There has been a substantial delay in implementation, rooted in the reality that many officers in local county education boards do not know about the APBET guidelines and if they do, do not understand how to implement them. It is a problem of miscommunication and disconnect between national and local government.

This is a problem for the children and families in APBET schools who have little interest in the political intricacies involved in the implementation of new regulations.

There are hundreds of school operators in Kenya, like Bridge, who are very keen to use APBET to register their school and pupils.

We need to give parents and communities certainty and we need to respect the choices they make for their children’s education. Therefore, all stakeholders need to work with government to resolve this problem and resolve it fast to prevent another generation of children from missing out.

Bridge is a so called ‘informal’ school network and one that has huge support amongst communities and families because of the learning gains it’s delivering.

In 2015 Bridge pupils sat the national Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education Exam (KCPE) and had an average pass mark of 63% compared to the national average of 49%.

In 2016, pupils also sat the KCPE and achieved a pass mark average of 58% compared to 49%. Bridge is using technology to achieve incredible results for Kenyan children in hundreds of schools and is delivering those results over consecutive years.

The Kenyan parliamentary education committee chair, Sabina Chege, has been vocal in her support of the Bridge approach saying that ‘If there is use of technology, achieving quality performance and making it possible for more children to attend school, then this is something that should be emulated and supported.’

All Kenyans want their communities to break out of the cycle of poverty. They want their children to be educated so that Kenya can prosper and grow.

Bridge knows that education reform is essential if Kenya wants to achieve this and registering so called ‘informal schools’ is a vital aspect in that journey.

Children in some of Kenya’s most under-served communities can get good results, achieve scholarships and go onto achieve their dreams.

All of those in the Kenyan education sector need to continue to push the government to make education reform happen faster; to make access for all happen faster. This starts with pushing for the government to implement APBET and register schools as APBET schools.