Basic Education Provision in Kenya's Urban Informal Settlements

Basic Education Provision in Kenya's Urban Informal Settlements

Francis Likoye Malenya
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5268-1.ch018
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


The provision of basic education in urban informal settlements in Kenya has invariably been described as poorly organized, less equitable and hence, one that is in crisis. This chapter examines the state of basic education as a function of the policies and approaches that guide its provision. It is argued in this chapter that the manner in which educational policy has been designed and resources distributed over time exhibits a tendency towards marginalizing children in urban informal settlements in terms of access to quality education compared to their counterparts elsewhere. Considering the socio-economic and socio-historical contexts of informal settlements in Kenya, it is concluded that while government efforts towards the provision of education are appreciated, it has not been sufficiently sensitive to the circumstances of the children learning in institutions in these settlements.
Chapter Preview


Urban informal settlements are a feature of Kenya’s urban centres such as Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, with Nairobi having the longest history of all. For instance, Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi has a history dating back to the colonial period, when Africans were barred from the city’s designated residential areas as these were reserved for Europeans and Asians. Kenyans who came to Nairobi city in search of work had to create informal residential settlements in the low-lying areas outside the central business district of the city to provide temporal shelter for low-level factory workers, retirees, single families and employment seekers. Accordingly, from the onset, urban informal settlements were conceived from a position of disadvantage, with non-existent or very limited general amenities, poor schools (if any) and a general lack of resources (Macharia, 2007).

In 1963, the first government of the Republic of Kenya declared Kibera urban informal settlements illegal. In this respect, essential services to these settlements such as road construction linking them to other areas of the city were not provided by the local authorities. Consequently, residents, particularly children, found it difficult to access education like their counterparts elsewhere in the country. Notably, this form of marginalization remains the reality for many of the estimated 2 million residents of informal settlements in Kenyan cities and towns, most of whom are still alienated from accessing most of the social services including education.

The growth of urban informal settlements in major towns and cities still continues unabated. For instance, according to the 2009 National Population and Housing Census, the population of Nakuru urban was 307,990 and was projected to reach 393,101 in 2017. Nakuru urban informal settlement is associated with development of industry mostly related to the agricultural sector, milling, tanning, oil refining and agro-products. Similarly, in 2012, the urban population statistics indicated that Eldoret town had 289,380 people, mainly attributed to urbanization and was projected to rise rapidly, while Kisumu city had a population of 131,062, in 2009 yet projected to increase by 8 per cent to reach 491,893 by 2017 (KNBS, 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census Vol. 1A, 2010). Nairobi had an estimated population of 3.36 million people in 2011 while Mombasa had about 939,000 people as per the 2009 census. It is however, notable that the growth of informal settlements in cities and major towns in Kenya has been influenced by nearly the same factors including industrialization, population growth, urban centre growth, land tenure system and high land prices and house rents (Anyuro and Chege, 2012).

The Kenyan Household Population Census (2009) established that close to 2 million children aged 6-13 years were out of school. These children are distributed across specific areas, key of which are the urban informal settlements, arid-districts and other pockets of poverty. Those in urban informal settlements of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu are engaged in child labour, with the largest proportion in domestic work, petty trade and mining. The factors that contribute to this include the cost of education, inadequate supply of formal schools in urban informal settlement, poverty, poor quality of education in urban informal settlement, and HIV and AIDS. Of all these informal settlements, Nairobi’s Kibera informal settlement has been over-emphasized in literature to the extent that it has attracted much more attention of both governmental and non-governmental educational interventions, interventions which in turn have tended to marginalize children in informal settlements in other cities and towns.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Private School: Is a school established, owned or run by private individuals, entrepreneurs or institutions/organization.

Marginalization: The reality of children in the urban informal settlement being accorded less attention and concern in terms of provision of (quality) education as compared to their counterparts elsewhere within the country as manifested in the lack of public schools, an expensive education yet of inferior quality offered in a form that does not enable them transit to the formal system making them appear insignificant and excluded from the mainstream educational concern.

Informal Settlement: An urban area inhabited by a group of people or households and characterized by durable housing, sufficient living space, access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and security of tenure that prevents forced evictions

Out-of-School Children: Are children who are of school going age but are not engaged in learning whether in NFE of in the formal education system.

Basic Education: Are all the educational programmes offered by institutions and ranging from pre-primary to primary and secondary. The basic education cycle would also include Adult basic education.

Non-Formal Schools: These are institutions of learning that resemble formal schools in the manner in which they operate; transmitting a formalized curriculum leading to formal school examinations but which differ in school practices, management, financing, staffing conditions, registration, operating environment, and school structures.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: