Education in Kenya


  1. Key Country Statistics
  2. General information and key indicators relevant to education
  3. Major Government and International Actors within the Educational System
  4. NGO Projects Supporting the Educational System
  5. International Grants Supporting Educational Projects

Accurate as of March 2013; unless indicated otherwise, the websites are all in English. Acknowledgement: Benjamin Barton.


Key Country Statistics  

Key statistics for Kenya relevant to education are as follows:

  • Population: 43 million (July 2012)
  • Age structure: 0-14 years = 42.5% of total population; 15-24 years = 19.1% of total population
  • Median age = 18.8 years (average men and women)
  • Urbanisation: 22%
  • Education expenditure: 7% of GDP (2006)
  • Literacy (understood as age 15 and over can read): 87.4% (breakdown: male 90.6% and female 84.2%) (2010)
  • School life expectancy: total = 11 years (primary to tertiary education)
  • GDP growth forecast: 5.1% (2012)
  • Official national languages: English and Swahili

Sources: country census and CIA World Factbook.

Structure of the Educational System

In 1985 Kenya reformed its educational system by introducing an approach adopting 8 years of primary education, 4 years of secondary education and 4 years of university education. Similar to Uganda it is based around a dual system of government-sponsored schools and private schools. Also in parallel to Uganda, Kenya introduced free primary education in 2003 and education in public schools became free, universal and compulsory. Secondary education is divided among government funded schools, ‘harambee’ (which do not receive full funding from the government) and private schools run by private organizations and individuals (often based on the British system of education).

Kenya’s educational system suffers from a number of obstacles, despite the recent strides that it has made. Literacy levels remain low, especially in rural areas and 5% of children are not enrolled in school, particularly in rural areas. Many children are older than expected for their class level and there is a severe shortage of teachers. Funding often remains minimal and the curriculum is delivered often with very few resources.

Major Government and International Actors within the Educational System

These are the Kenyan Ministry of Education, the Kenyan Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, the Kenya Institute of Education, the Kenya National Examinations Council, the Teachers Service Commission, the Kenya Education Management InstituteElimika (programme for learning management to capture ideas behind online training), UNICEF Kenya and UNESCO Kenya.

NGO Projects Supporting Education

Education Partnerships Africa (EPA): a UK-based organisation established in 1995, EPAfrica invests resources according to the needs of individual schools in Kenya and Uganda. Generally, this revolves around investment in textbooks, science equipment, infrastructure (electricity, water, computers, Internet), support for the management of resources, promoting health and gender issues to pupils, promoting awareness of opportunities after secondary school and encouraging schools to organise extra-curricular activities.

The Kenyan School Project: the aims of this US-based charity, established in 2008, include the construction of a school with necessary facilities, installing electricity and eradication illiteracy.

Project Education, Inc. (PEI): this US-based charity, established in the 2000s, has been working on constructing a school, which opened in 2005, and on ensuring its sustainable management.

The Kenya Community Education Project: this UK-based organisation was established in 2003. It aims to raise money through charitable events and contributions in order to maintain a feeding programme for over 120 pupils at Madungu Primary, pay the salaries of two teachers and supply educational material.

The Elewana Education Project: this is a project of a US-based charity, established in the mid-1990s. The charity is actively working with 5 secondary schools and one primary school in Western Kenya and works directly with the school’s administration, faculty and students to improve the school’s facilities and academic performance. Furthermore, the project works to pair these schools with partner schools in the US for mutual curricular and service learning opportunities.

Kenya Works: this US-based charity, established in 2004, supplies schools with libraries, library books and educational materials, uniforms for the very poor and occasionally school buildings; it also provides a small income, job skills training and micro credit mainly for single mothers.

AMREF Ganze Girls’ Education Project: this project aims to work with the community and the school’s parent-teacher association to improve infrastructure and better health by building 4 classrooms, a library, a science lab, a dining hall and kitchen, 2 dormitories, 2 toilet blocks and washing facilities, and 3 water storage tanks.

Concern Worldwide: this Irish charity, established in 2006, is working on the construction of a new school building with eight classrooms, three latrines, water storage tanks, planting of fruit and shade trees.

The Kenyan Education Fund: this is a US-based charity, established in 2005. It provides scholarships, mentoring and career guidance workshops, HIV/AIDS teacher training and computer exchange programmes. The focus is predominantly based around disadvantaged students, especially girls, very poor or non-nomadic pupils.

The ‘Education for Children, Kenya’ project of Partnerships In Action: this is an initiative of the Aga Khan Foundation USA, with the support of USAID, that was launched in 2004. The project helps prepare primary school children for the transition to elementary grades, increases parent involvement, builds educational resources and makes education available to the most vulnerable children in society including those with special needs; approximately 600 teachers have been trained on active learning methods.

International Grants Supporting Educational Projects

Japanese Embassy Nairobi Grant Assistance for Grass-roots Human Security Projects aims to provide financial assistance to non-profit, development-oriented organizations so as to implement community development projects, which directly benefit people at the grassroots level of primary/secondary education and vocational training remain priority areas.

The Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund provides small grants to registered self-help groups, youth groups, community based organizations, and specific types of educational institutions and medical facilities.

The EU Delegation to Kenya has in the past run/funded a number of education-based projects, either with other partner countries or specific organizations. Information on possible calls for tender on education-based projects can be found here.

USAID Unsolicited Grants: provides funding for exceptional grant proposals in any development area and non-profits may apply after registering with USAID.