Following ESCR-Net members' advocacy, the UN raises alarm about the lack of regulation in education in Kenya

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The demands embodied in the civil society report, “Kenya’s support to privatization in education: the choice for segregation?”, created and advocated by ESCR-Net members, Hakijamii and Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other Kenyan human rights organizations were successfully actualized by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Facilitated by the continued advocacy of these organizations, together with fellow ESCR-Net members Kituo Cha Sheria and the International Commission of Jurists, as well as the East African Centre for Human Rights and CRADLE, the United Nations published last week a report assessing the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the Government of Kenya. In these “Concluding Observations”, the Committee expressed its concern about the “Low quality of education and rapid increase of private and informal schools, including those funded by foreign development aids, providing sub-standard education and deepening inequalities”.

Further, the CRC urged the Kenyan Government to “Guarantee the legal right to free mandatory education for all, without direct or hidden costs”. It insisted that Kenya should, in doing so, “prioritize free primary quality education at public schools over private schools and informal low cost schools and regulate and monitor the quality of education provided by private informal schools in line with the Convention.”

The list of issues of the CESCR comes against a background of mounting concerns over commercialisation of education in Kenya, and in Africa. Previously, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights also questioned the definition of “non-formal schools” by the Kenyan government, and how this is used as an excuse to not provide public schools. It further asked “Why are private school chains, such as Bridge International Academies, registered as non- formal schools, whereas they appear to offer formal education?”

This follows a joint statement from last May where 116 ESCR Net members and allies articulated their concerns about the World Bank’s support for the development of Bridge International Academies (BIA). BIA is a multinational chain of low-fee profit-making private primary schools targeting poor families in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and which has over 400 schools in Kenya. The school chain has come under scrutiny in the last months over questions of quality it delivers, its profit motive, the fees it charges, and the regulation of its operations in Kenya. In particular, in a recent controversial move, BIA, expressed its opposition to new guidelines proposed by the Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Education aiming at ensuring basic standards in non-formal schools. 

For more information, please read the press release here

For more information on the Right to Education, please visit here

Photo: Hakijami.