Government Support for 'Private Schools for the Poor': a case study in Mathare informal settlement, Kenya

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link






This case study provides an exploration of the Ministry of Education's strategy of engagement with non-formal schools in Kenya, and the responses made by these schools. Non-formal schools in the informal settlements of Nairobi represent a form of low-cost private schooling, which is found in other urban centers in less developed countries. The ministry's program includes: school verification and validation, changes in school management and the provision of instructional materials' grants. The ministry began supporting NFS through an investment program included in the first Kenya Education Sector Support Program 2005-2010. The study findings have been directed towards the question of whether this government support to NFS influences the educational experience of the poor to their advantage.

Some of the advantages identified include: greater financial stability in supported schools, which can be used to provide more concessionary places; eligibility of validated NFS for a national school feeding program through greater school legitimization; stronger support for school survival from parents and among pupils themselves because of the expectation of better academic results; higher teacher morale and greater teacher confidence; increased access to national exams through more NFS being granted exam center status and a reduction in exam fees and greater potential access to secondary school through an improvement in exam results.

Disadvantages that are described include: the continuation of fees at the same levels as before the MoE support program; no substantive improvements in school conditions other than in teaching and learning materials; high rates of pupil transfer and an associated selection process, which is based on academic ability; tolerance of high rates of class repetition; increased academic pressure, translating into long school hours, class repetition and potential dropping out; modes of punishment that are not acceptable in public schools; deterioration of teacher: pupil ratio and the diversion of funds and support from other forms of non-formal education.

The findings suggest that the MoE support program has resulted in some improvements in equality between pupils in NFS and those attending public primary schools, but has done little to address issues of equity amongst children growing up in these disadvantaged circumstances.