Public policy alternatives for self-help (Harambe) schooling in Kenya

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Virginia Tech

The emergence of self-help education phenomenon was analyzed by examining the documents available in the Ministry of Education. The records indicate that self-help education was started in Kenya earlier than 1963, particularly in the Central Province under the name, Kikuyu Independent Schools; and in many locations of Nyanza Province.

The largest movement of self-help education started in 1963. Records show that such schools have grown in magnitude and have contributed to the increase in the number of secondary school places in most parts of the country. The government has accepted that Harambe schools have been a blessing to the rural people. The government has encouraged the traditional efforts of self-help in the rural communities of Kenya.

Harambe schools have increased in number more than the government schools, They enroll more students than the government schools; however, the quality of education offered in both systems of schools remains unequal.

Two major government policies on Harambe schools were investigated, The first one was the take-over of the well-established and mature Harambe schools. Such schools are assimilated into the government school system. They are accorded all the benefits that government schools get. The second policy was assistance to selected Harambe schools. The assistance could be in the form of qualified teachers from government institutions or overseas volunteer teachers.

It was indicated in this study that these policies have contributed to the expansion of Harambe schools in the rural communities where children who complete primary education cannot find enough places in government schools. Initiation of such schools is based on the notion that once started, the take-over or government assistance would be available. However, records have shown that most of these type of schools have remained poorly maintained especially in economically poor rural areas. Poor conditions have contributed to low educational standards in these schools. Consequently, the needs of the students and the rural communities are not met.

Four issues that affect Harambe schools were selected for analysis and some policy alternatives and action by the government examined. Issues in Harambe schools were those that involve the curricula, governance, personnel, and finance.

Harambe schools employ a curriculum that is designed for well-established government schools. Such a curriculum is basically academic, bookish and prepares children to pass the public examination, but it hardly equips them with functional skills. It was demonstrated in this study that students who attend Harambe schools do not benefit from such a curriculum.

Governance of Harambe schools is shared between the government and the local communities, parents, and school committees. The question that was asked in this study was: Should the governance of Harambe schools be shared among the different groups? Government exercises indirect control. It regulates the curriculum and requires all students to participate in public examinations. Local communities, parents, and school committees exercise direct control by making school policies, rules, and organization of the operation of such schools.

Direct control extends to personnel and finance in Harambe schools. Rural communities contribute cash, labor, and material for establishing Harambe schools. Poor economic resources in many rural areas contribute to the utilization of poorly-qualified staff to teach in Harambe schools.

In view of the observations of the issues in Harambe schooling, several policy options and actions by the government were offered as possible means of seeking improvement in the Harambe schools. Alternative policies were specifically confined to the areas of curriculum, governance, personnel, and finance. Many options advanced in the policy alternatives in this study focussed on Harambe schools as an institution of the rural place which must be structured and organized to meet the needs and aspirations of the rural communities.