BY EDMUND KIIRU WAMBUI
Education is a fundamental human right, essential for the empowerment and development of an individual and the society as a whole. Education is a right for every child, but due to the prevalence of poverty you find that the literacy rate in East Africa, more so in rural places is in very low percentages, something which is not good.
These low percentages of the literacy rate should be sending some kind of an SOS to the relevant ministries in charge of education. Many of the children are denied of this valuable right sometimes by their parents/guardians/caregivers not sending them to school or simply because the schools are inaccessible.
The right to education is provided for under in international law, particularly under Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The right includes the right to free, compulsory primary education for all, and an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, in particular by the progressive introduction of free secondary education.
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 under Article 43 (1) (f) states as follows ‘’every person has right to education”. The foregoing provision is further illuminated by article 53 (c) which provides that ‘’every child has a right to free and compulsory education’’. Since this is a fundamental right, the State may, by law, determine by the various means available ensure that the children of this nation get at least basic education.
One of such ways the government of Kenya has adopted is to provide for the right of children to free and compulsory education in the Children’s Act; confirming that indeed every child has a right to full time elementary education, education that is of satisfactory and equitable quality, in a formal learning environment which also confirms to government standards.
Since the law provides for the right to education for every child, governments, right from the national government to the county governments have the obligation to provide free education and also to ensure compulsory admission into a learning institution, ensure attendance and completion of education by every child who is of school going age.
But what does free education mean? As it is loosely translated most of the times, ‘free education’ means that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charge or expense which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing education. That means the child may make a contribution to the meals provided at school or make payment for a trip the school has organized.
The right to free basic education is an essential step towards improving each child’s opportunity to accessing higher education in future.
The Act also contains specific provisions for disadvantaged groups, such as migrant children, children with special needs, or those who have a disadvantage owing to social, cultural, economic, geographical, linguistic, gender or any such factor.
With the revision of the system of education, it can also be expected that issues of school dropout, out-of-school children, and poor quality of education, and un-availability of trained teachers would be addressed in the short to medium term plans. The enforcement of the right to education would bring the country closer to achieving its objectives and mission under the sustainable development goals and education for all; and hence is a step ahead towards a society of literate citizens. It goes without saying that a high percentage literacy rate comes with numerous advantages to the country.
To improve on the quality of education, the question of rational deployment of teachers by ensuring that the specified pupil teacher ratio is maintained for each school, rather than just as an average for schools will be very helpful. If implemented, it will play a big part in ensuring that there is no urban-rural imbalance in teacher postings.
Children are the future of every nation. We must therefore endeavor to educate them. The education should by all means be of good quality, notwithstanding the fact that it is free. When we use the mark of quality rather than quantity to educate children, it will soon show that knowledge is power and education is the premise of progress.
This article was originally written for our newsletter, The Deuteronomy