Two districts in North Eastern Province have no girls sitting this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination.
All the 163 candidates tackling the test in Fafi and Mandera West districts are boys, showing that the fight for gender equality is far from being won. The gender disparity exists despite the fact that all schools in the area are mixed, providing a chance for girls to enrol as well.
Lower North Eastern Regional Provincial Commissioner Hassan Farah said gender disparity in the region remained alarming as many parents were not taking girls to school. Mr Farah, who visited several schools in the region together with provincial director of education Pascal Makiti to assess progress of the ongoing examinations, said 3,201 candidates were sitting the test in 50 secondary schools in North Eastern Province. Of these, only 909 were girls. Garissa District has the highest number of girl candidates. It has a total of 301 girls out of the 976 registered candidates.
The administrator attributed the gender disparity and the low enrolment of both boys and girls to illiteracy and a negative attitude among members of the pastoralist community to education. Mr Farah said the government would next year roll out campaigns through local chiefs on the importance of educating children. He noted the need to establish day secondary schools for girls to end the fear among parents who believe their girls will be spoilt in boarding secondary schools. The administrator said in Fafi District, where parents failed to admit girls together with boys, the government had initiated a Sh30 million girls secondary school through the economic stimulus project. “The entire province has 50 examination centres,” said the administrator.
There is a similar trend in refugee camps of Hagardera, Ifo and Daghaley in the Garissa County, where only 75 out of the 375 Somali refugee candidates sitting KCSE examination are girls, he said. Despite non-governmental organisations putting focus on educating the girl child, the deep-rooted culture remains a challenge in the region. Three years ago, the United Nations Children’s Fund embarked on a programme of sponsoring bright girls at both national and provincial secondary schools in the country in to improve education of the girl child. This has stopped many girls from dropping out due to early marriage and lack of school fees, said Kinsi Abass, the director of Pastoralist Girls Initiative.
The official, who supports the girls with sanitary towels and promotes clubs in schools that address female circumcision and early marriage, said retrogressive cultural practices were hampering education of the girl child in the province.