Why do pupils dropout when education is ‘free’? Explaining school dropout among the urban poor in Nairobi

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Ryerson University]On: 02 December 2014, At: 22:51Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Compare: A Journal of Comparativeand International EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ccom20</p><p>Why do pupils dropout when educationis free? Explaining school dropoutamong the urban poor in NairobiBenta Abuyaa, Moses Oketcha &amp; Peter Musyokaaa Education Research Program, African Population and HealthCenter, Kenya.Published online: 12 Jul 2012.</p><p>To cite this article: Benta Abuya, Moses Oketch &amp; Peter Musyoka (2013) Why do pupilsdropout when education is free? 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Explainingschool dropout among the urban poor in Nairobi</p><p>Benta Abuya*, Moses Oketch and Peter Musyoka</p><p>Education Research Program, African Population and Health Center, Kenya</p><p>The introduction of universal primary education in sub-Sahara Africancountries in the 1990s increased enrolment rates and provided opportuni-ties to children who were previously not in school. Research demon-strates that eliminating fees is not the magic bullet that deliversuniversal access. This study seeks to determine risk factors associatedwith dropout among primary school children in the low-income areas ofNairobi. Qualitative data is from the Education Research Program, col-lected between June and July 2008. The study found that: dumpsites inthe two slum sites of Korogocho and Viwandani lure children out ofschool; school levies still charged in schools keep children out of school;and chronic poverty within families lure girls aged 1416 into transac-tional sex. In conclusion, the declaration of free primary education is notsufficient to realize improved educational attainment as dropout after ini-tial entry negates the purpose for which it was introduced.</p><p>Keywords: equity and access; gender issues; primary education</p><p>Introduction</p><p>Introduction of universal primary education (UPE) in several sub-Sahara Afri-can countries increased enrolment rates and provided opportunities to childrenwho were not in school prior to the UPE policies (Ohba 2009; Oketch et al.2010). Despite being the goal of many countries in sub-Saharan Africa sincethe 1960s, providing universal and free primary education (FPE) hasremained elusive for over 40 years in Kenyas case (Oketch and Rolleston2007). According to UNESCO (2008), the open democratic systems that existin many countries have certainly helped this cause, particularly between 1990and 2000. As 2015 approaches, access to basic education has been seen as anend in itself, a human right and a vital part of individuals capacity to leadvaluable lives (Birdsall, Levine, and Ibrahim 2005). The importance of FPEnotwithstanding, scholars and development agencies working on educationissues have overemphasized the role of FPE as a magic bullet solution tothe challenges of school children in many sub-Sahara African countries. Free</p><p>*Corresponding author. Email: atienoa6@gmail.com</p><p>Compare, 2013Vol. 43, No. 6, 740762, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2012.707458</p><p> 2012 British Association for International and Comparative Education</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Rye</p><p>rson</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>2:51</p><p> 02 </p><p>Dec</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>primary education provided mass enrolment into schools in Kenya but theissues of sustainability and primary school completion still remain a chal-lenge. For example, about 400,000 children who joined grade one in 2003did not complete grade eight in 2010 (Daily Nation 2011). These childrencould have either repeated or dropped out of school (Government of theRepublic of Kenya 2011). Since the Ministry of Education (MoE) in Kenyahas forbidden repetition of classes by students, the possible explanation forthe 400,000 (59%) not completing school on time would be due to dropout.This means that only 41% were able to complete the primary cycle of school-ing on time. Figure 1 shows the trends of school enrolment and completionrates leading up to 2010. The difference between children enrolled and thosewho completed school range from 11, 14 and 9.7% in 1999, 2003 and 2009,respectively. Therefore, leading up 2010 there was a clear indication of thehigh wastage levels of about 10%, which can be explained by either repetitionor dropout, with minimal repetition a vast majority of these children musthave dropped out of school.</p><p>While access has improved, UPE is still a mirage to many school-goingchildren. One factor to this mirage is dropout, and there are several factorsthat lead to this. Common ones cited in studies include: child-level factors(Aloise-Young, Cruickshank, and Chavez 2002; Hunt 2008; Lloyd, Mensch,and Clark 2000), household factors (Chimombo et al. 2000; Guryan 2004;Hanushek, Lavy, and Hitomi 2006), school factors (Chimombo et al. 2000;Lee and Burkam 2003) and community factors (Ampiah and Adu-Yeboah2009; Christenson and Thurlow 2004; Tansel 2002). Nonetheless, there areunique cases that require contextual understanding, where qualitative narra-tives of those who have dropped out, together with their parents and com-munity around the schools, may shed light on possible causes. This study</p><p>Figure 1. Primary enrolment and completion rates.</p><p>Compare 741</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Rye</p><p>rson</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>2:51</p><p> 02 </p><p>Dec</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>seeks to contribute to the debate on providing FPE for the poor by listeningto the narratives of children who have dropped out, their parents and com-munity members who are around the schools in the urban slums of Nairobi.The narratives of the children who have been left behind in the FPE era,the parents and community members will illuminate the alternative ways ofensuring sustained FPE by the Kenyan government. Below is a discussionof some of the factors associated with dropout.</p><p>Child-level factors</p><p>The main characteristics highlighted in the literature on primary-school com-pletion and dropout rates include childs gender, age, cognitive skills, nutri-tional and health status and peer influence (Aloise-Young, Cruickshank, andChavez 2002; Hunt 2008; Lloyd, Mensch, and Clark 2000). According toLloyd, Mensch and Clark (2000), late school entrants are just as likely todrop out as those who enter early, leaving late starters with fewer years ofschooling on average. The relationship between the gender of the child andthe ability to complete school is important, especially in the African context,where cultural beliefs, like son preference in school attendance, are stillupheld (Mensch et al. 1999).</p><p>Household factors</p><p>Research shows that the main household characteristics that impact onschool-completion rates are household size, parental education, householdincome and assets (Chimombo et al. 2000; Guryan 2004; Hanushek, Lavy,and Hitomi 2006). Household wealth determines the ability of a householdto invest in the childs education (Connelly and Zheng 2003; Guryan 2004).If the opportunity cost of a child being in school is high for parents, thechance of dropping out remains high (Chimombo et al. 2000). According toHunt (2008), children from well-off families are more likely to stay inschool than those from poor households, who may never attend school orare often at risk of dropping out. In addition, children from poorer back-grounds are in most cases under pressure to withdraw from school as theyget older due to the increased opportunity cost of their time.</p><p>School factors</p><p>School factors that predict of school dropout include school distance, qualityinstruction in the schools and costs incurred by households in keeping theirchildren in schools. If a school is perceived to be of poor quality and cannotprovide children with the necessary skills, households may decide not toinvest in their childrens education. Thus, poor school quality may discouragehouseholds from educating their children and prefer that they be engaged in</p><p>742 B. Abuya et al.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Rye</p><p>rson</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>2:51</p><p> 02 </p><p>Dec</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>income-generating activities (Chimombo et al. 2000). According to Lee andBurkam (2003), students are less likely to drop out from schools that offeracademic courses and few non-academic courses. The authors further arguethat where there is a positive relationship between teachers and students,dropout rates are low. Hanushek, Lavy and Hitomi (2006) argue that studentsattending higher quality schools tend to stay in school longer and completehigher grades.</p><p>Community factors</p><p>Community factors that influence dropout are rural or urban location andlevel of urban development, distances to regional urban centres and the localeconomic activities. Several scholars have shown that communities caninfluence dropout rates by providing school children with opportunities towork during school sessions (Ampiah and Adu-Yeboah 2009; Tansel 2002).The study further found that households in industrializing communities tendto better educate their children than households in the agricultural communi-ties (Tansel 2002). In sum, as indicated in the literature and as argued byChristenson and Thurlow (2004), school dropout cannot be understood inisolation of contextual factors as it is as a result of interplay among individ-uals, households, schools and community factors.</p><p>Conceptual framework</p><p>In conceptualizing the dropout of pupils in school in the study sites of Korogo-cho, Viwandani, Harambee and Jericho, we adapt Bronfenbrenners (1979)ecological framework for understanding the educational risk. The frameworkasserts that development is a direct consequence of the interactions that occurwithin a micro system, such as the school, family and the peer group, and indi-rectly a consequence of the interactions across the systems.</p><p>These systems include the micro-system, meso-system, exo-system andmacro-system. For purposes of this study, we conceptualize the micro sys-tem of a pupil to be the characteristics that affect individual performance ofthe child, the meso-system to be the family or household characteristics, theexo-system to be the school characteristics and the macro-system to be thecommunity and societal characteristics that may determine a child to stay inor drop out of school. According to Bronfenbrenner (1977) students haveinnate characteristics such as intelligence, personality, development potential,experiences and behaviour, which, through effective interaction and balancewith the classroom, household, community and socio-cultural environments,enhance educational achievement.</p><p>Moreover, the community is very critical in the development of the child andtheir subsequent behaviour (Heneveld and Craig 1996). There is the interactionof the community with the individual child, the home in which the child resides</p><p>Compare 743</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Rye</p><p>rson</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>2:51</p><p> 02 </p><p>Dec</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>and the school that the child attends (Johnson 1994). A close community inter-action with the school leads to more meaningful experiences for the children,whereas a remote community interaction with the school leads to less meaning-ful experiences. In addition, the education success of students is dependent onthe cultural orientation of the society in which the student is a member. Societyand culture transforms the characteristics of every individual so as to contributeto a particular collective of a groups existence (Johnson 1994). Moreover, achild is transformed into a group member by the accumulation of human expe-riences preserved in the cultural repository (45) (see Figure 2).</p><p>We come to this study with the understanding that one of the fundamentalmeans to reaching universal access to education, and reaching the MillenniumDevelopment Goals, is to eliminate barriers to schooling accessibility, such asschool fees. Research has demonstrated that FPE is not the magic bullet thatdelivers universal access among the poor within the public school system(Oketch et al. 2010). In addition, the slum context poses a lot of challenges(Mudege, Zulu, and Izugbara 2008) that predispose the slum children to therisk of dropping out of school. We seek to establish those risk factors thatmake access to and subsequent sustainability of children in school a dream forchildren attending school in the urban slums of Nairobi.</p><p>Data and methods</p><p>Data and sampling techniques</p><p>Data for this study is obtained from the qualitative follow-up study ofchildren who have dropped out of school within the Education Research</p><p>Figure 2. Ecological framework. Adapted from Bronfenbrenners EcologicalFramework (1979).</p><p>744 B. Abuya et al.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Rye</p><p>rson</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>2:51</p><p> 02 </p><p>Dec</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>Programme data sets. Data was collected in the two slum communities ofKorogocho and Viwandani and two non-slum communities of Harambeeand Jericho.1 Children targeted for follow-up were purposefully selected inKorogocho, Viwandani, Harambee and Jericho between 2005 and 2007.</p><p>Purposeful sampling of 40 children provided a selection of participantswho provided information-rich cases worth of an in-depth study. The chil-dren enrolled in the study had been away from school for at least one year.For...</p></li></ul>


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