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As families settle back into the rhythm of the school year, we wanted to share about education in Kenya. How would your child’s life be different if she went to school in Kenya? Here are some Kenyan Ed basics shared by Beth Oaks, an American teacher who has taught in both Kenyan and American schools.

Bilingual Education

Classes are taught in Kiswahili (literally "the language of the Swahili people") through class 3 (3rd grade). Starting in class 4, all classes are taught in English except for their Kiswahili lessons. Students are typically fluent enough in English by class 4 that it isn't a difficult leap for them.

School starts with the Calendar Year

The school year in Kenya runs from January to November with breaks in April and August.

Children pay for their own supplies

Students are expected to come to school with all of the supplies they’ll need for the term. For primary school, the equivalent of grades K-8, the biggest costs are school supplies, including uniforms, and, if they go to a private school, tuition.

A private school education is ideal, but out of reach for many. For public school students, uniforms are a huge cost, and many students only have one uniform that they wear every day and wash when they get home from school. Supplies are also costly, leading some students to fill every available space in their notebooks and find scrap paper to write on when their notebooks fill.

Tech-free Ed

Computers are not common in Kenyan schools. The higher-priced private schools in Nairobi have computers, but few other schools do, so students don't typically get this vital skill until high school or university, if at all.

High school is private – so are electives

Different students have different goals, mainly depending on what part of the country they're from or how wealthy their parents are. Most students would LOVE to get good enough grades on their standardized tests to get to university, but many students won't realistically get there, and the best they can hope for is an 8th grade education, which is as far as the government will pay for. After that, many students go on to work, likely on their parent's farms or similar labor jobs. Students who can afford high school and university can go on and hope for better careers after graduation.

Students in primary school don't typically get electives, though teachers may sponsor clubs to allow students to pursue interests outside their typical classes. In secondary school, students have more choices for their classes, such as various foreign languages, math and science courses, music classes, and computer classes if computers are available.

Students also aren't automatically admitted to high school after class 8, regardless of the availability of money for tuition. Students must pass a test called the KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) to be admitted to high school. Their grades determine how good of a high school they can get into, and high schools send out offer letters to prospective students in early January, following the release of the KCPE scores.

Side by Side is proud to promise education through high school to the eleven students currently enrolled in the Embakasi Project and to provide computers to teach students at the Tania Centre about technology and enable them to practically implement word processing and online research in their studies. All donations to Side by Side are directed entirely to providing educational support and additional interventions to vulnerable children and their families in the United States and around the world. Join the impact today!