WHITEHOUSE STATION, New Jersey — Kenya has long struggled with maintaining and improving childhood education and literacy rates. Much of this has to do with the country’s struggle with poverty. Although the poverty rate has been steadily declining in recent years, 17% of the population still lives below the poverty line as of 2023. In relation to this, the nation’s literacy rates are still quite low. According to the CIA factbook, 17.4% of the total population over the age of 15 cannot read or write. This is even higher for the female population, with 20.2% of the female population over 15 not being able to read or write. This highlights not just Kenya’s issues with its education system, but the gender disparities that lie within these systems and how they prevent girls from academic achievement.
However, Kenya has made great progress in certain areas, with both nonprofit and governmental programs being created to improve education and literacy for children in the country. Improving education and literacy in impoverished countries such as Kenya is crucial, as quality education is often the best way for younger generations to improve their lives and escape from the cycle of poverty.
Here are three organizations working to provide educational opportunities for Kenya’s citizens.
Raising Futures is one organization in Kenya that is working to improve the educational opportunities for young people in the country. The group’s training program known as Seeds of Hope provides a variety of services, including vocational training, business courses and personal support that are free of cost for students aged 15-25. They estimate that they help 900 adolescents every year to improve their occupational opportunities.
Furthermore, to help end the gender gap in education in Kenya, Raising Futures predominantly focuses on young girls, with about 75-80% of participants being young women and girls. To help students who are in poverty, they also provide free meals and hygiene products. In addition, for students who have experienced significant trauma and hardship, they provide counseling services to address mental health issues. The group has found overwhelming success in their mission and states on their website that 90% of graduates from Seed of Hope have found jobs, have started businesses or are continuing with their education.
For the Good
For the Good is another group doing impactful work in Kenya to improve childhood education and literacy. This group’s main aim is to ensure that all girls in the country have access to quality education. Their main interventions include building new secondary schools in rural areas, providing students with important learning resources and enrolling children in primary school.
On their website, they highlight many success stories of girls that they have impacted through their efforts. One of these girls is Frida. Frida opened up about how in the past, many girls refused to come to school because their families could not afford sanitary pads during their menstrual cycles. This highlights the important impact that For the Good has had in providing these types of products for girls to help keep them in school during their menstrual cycles.
The group was also able to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by pivoting to online learning. They provided students with an offline app on tablets so they could continue to learn while at home. It is estimated that over 200 students were able to continue their education during the pandemic due to the actions of For the Good.
A third group doing work to advance childhood education and literacy in Kenya is Watato Wasome. Their goal is to improve literacy for children in Kenya aged 3-10 through child-centered literacy activities. These activities are offered in three centers and reach over 150 young students every week. In their 2022 report, they documented a 64.5% increase in adolescents’ literacy levels throughout all age levels. They were also able to specially train 32 teachers on specific literacy-centered activities that are designed to boost reading skills.
Founder of Watato Wasome, Danielle Ochieng’, spoke with the Borgen Project about how her organization helps beat poverty, saying, “This educational cornerstone imparts crucial cognitive, social and emotional proficiencies in a child’s formative years, instilling a bedrock of skills pivotal for more than their scholastic journey. By arming young children with these cognitive tools, the cycle of poverty is disrupted, ushering in a paradigm shift.” Danielle also shared some success stories of Watato Wasome, including how they recorded an “overall literacy improvement of 3- to 10-year-olds from 10.5% in February to 75% in November” based on a group of 23 children.
Overall, Kenya has a ways to go in improving childhood education and literacy and ensuring a quality education for all children, including providing equal opportunities for young girls. However, in recent years, organizations such as Raising Futures, For the Good and Watato Wasome have made a significant impact in improving education and literacy rates for children in Kenya. Education is one of the most important tools in elevating people out of poverty. Through the work these organizations are doing to educate the younger generation, new opportunities will arise for youth in Kenya that will help decrease poverty and provide an improved quality of life for Kenyans.
– Emma Glas