Lenana Girls High School is designed not only to help vulnerable girls and young women but also their children and families. Despite coming from reduced poverty levels, future generations in Kenya can have a greater likelihood of attending universities and pursuing careers. However, there are many factors limiting widespread education for girls in Kenya.
1. Gender disparity persists to be a serious challenge.
Women’s literacy rate has significantly increased as a result of positive government policies and strategies. However, despite progress in education as a whole, gender disparity remains a challenge as 16% of women in Kenya still lack basic literacy skills, compared with 9% of men. The failure to promote and retain girls in secondary education is one factor negatively affecting the slow progress in women’s literacy.
There are barriers to female education based on patriarchal values and practices that reinforce male privileges. “In rural Kenya, one in two girls is married by age 19. The legal marriage age is 16. The percentage of girls getting married below the age of 18 is 30.5%."
2. Medical factors are significant in reducing educational opportunities for girls.
Factors such as inadequate infrastructure, poor guidelines for policy implementation, as well as the prevalence of HIV and AIDS, have prevented girls from accessing education. Additionally, “in 2016, the U.N. reported that an estimated one in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their menstrual cycle due to an inability to access affordable sanitary products.”
3. Primary education is free but families must pay for secondary school as well as textbooks, uniforms, and teachers’ salaries.
The cost to send a child to secondary school is on average $1.30/day. In 2003, Kenya introduced free primary education. But when children attend school, they are not contributing to the family’s income. These costs and perceived losses make it difficult for families to justify sending a child to school. Particularly in communities where girls are expected to marry early and join their husband’s family, parents do not readily see how education benefits their daughters or the family.
4. Significantly over half of Kenyan girls are not enrolled in secondary education.
In areas of the country where poverty and gender inequality are high, those like Kitale, only 19% of girls are in school. And of those girls who are enrolled in the first year of school, one in five (or less) make it to their eighth year. It is at this age that many of our Lenana girls are left with no other choice than to drop out of school.
5. Completing one year of secondary education can lead to a 25% increase in future wages.
If girls finish their secondary education, though, child marriage would be reduced by 50%. “Girls’ education has been proven to be one of the most beneficial strategies to enhance development and economic growth. Educated mothers tend to have healthier children and that these children are also more likely to attend school, breaking the cycle of illiteracy and poverty.”