My international contact Jane Natabona from Kenya, who is also a lecturer at the Kenya Headmistresses Association (You can access their website at http://www.khateachertraining.org) talked to me about issues of access, equity and quality in the early childhood education sector in Kenya. In Kenya and in Africa in general, institutionalized early childhood education is a relatively new phenomenon. The African family structure used to be very close and the children would play together, they received a lot of stimulation from the parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and within the tight knit community. Their intellectual stimulation was stroked by the many stories they heard from their elders. African story telling is filled with riddles and games and thus the children were stimulated and socialized and ready for grade school. This was the rural set up. The problem occurs in the urban areas. Most early childhood education centers cater for children from ages 3 to 5. Most of these programs charge fees that are often too high for the poor and lower middle class families to afford. There are no regulations governing early childhood education and many are operated by organizations that are profit oriented, community groups and non-governmental organizations. Another issue is the pastoral communities. They are nomadic and move their animals around depending on the weather. These children do not have access to the conventional early childhood programs.
I was referred to a paper written by Felicity W. Githinji and Anne Kanga on “Early Childhood Development Education in Kenya: A Literature Review on Current Issues” (2011). According to the paper by Githinji, F., and Kanga, A., there are no government operated preschools. The government has held a lot of seminars, written policy papers, had commissions as well as workshops and established the National Center for Early Childhood Education (NACECE). This center’s role was “to advice the government on the modalities and logistics of disseminating the early childhood development education (ECDE) program on a national scale and coordinate ECDE curriculum development”(p. 135). The prohibitive cost of attending the early childhood programs ensures that the poor and disadvantaged families cannot afford to access these programs for their children. They wait until they are ready to attend the elementary school which is free.
Githinji, F., & Kanga, A. concluded that the ECDE is facing a lot of challenges that need urgent attention from the government, parents, teachers and the entire education sector. The government needs to fund feeding programs in the ECDE centers to ensure that the children get the nutrition they need. Most of the programs have meals included in the fees making it impossible for the poor to access them. The pastoral communities need to train teachers so that they can move with the children and ensure consistency in their learning. The government also needs to fund some of the ECDE programs for communities that cannot afford them.
My contact, Jane is hopeful that with the new regime things will get better as they seem to be focusing more on the marginalized communities. The early childhood education in Kenya will continue to elude large segments of the population unless something is done to ensure equal access.
My German contact was unavailable and I hope to have some input from her soon.
Jane Natabona, Lecturer, Kenya Headmistresses Association
Githinji, F., & Kanga, A. (2011) Early childhood development education in Kenya: A literature review on current issues. Retrieved from http://www.journalcra.com