What is Kenya's Literacy Rate?

by Deondra

How many people can read and write in Kenya?

Thanks for your help.

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Oct 21, 2015
What is Kenya's NEW
by: Anonymous

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Oct 25, 2012
answer NEW
by: Anonymous


Aug 09, 2011
Inspiring the Non-literate
by: Catherine

KARR- That is a fantastic question and I hope that the following resources will help you. They are drawn from TEARFUND a Christian relief organisation. In my humble opinion they have done the most to develop resources that are relevant to Africa and can be used to drive development at the grassroot level with great success. They have a wealth of resources that you can look at. This in particular might inspire you. Follow the links

Getting people thinking (PDF, 680K)Tearfund case study Getting people thinking contains ideas from the ABCD Programme in Cambodia, aimed at increasing people's ability to initiate change and make choices within loving relationships.


Hope these will inspire you.

Aug 08, 2011
Kenya's Literacy Rate
by: Chris - A child of Kenya

This question has been covered quite well in previous comments.

Aug 08, 2011
by: KARR

How do we stimulate the non literate to actually recognize their need and aspire to be literate?
What other informal resources are availablein my community that can be used to promote literacy?Resources split into himan resource, facilities,materials and money?

Jul 26, 2011
by: Catherine

Hey Chris, Speaking of teaching a man to fish, here is another version of it

Give someone a fish- feed them for a day
Teach someone to fish- He will feed till the river runs dry
Animate someone to think creatively- feed them for life.

Thanks for your optimism about improving literacy rates, I guess I probably should have said that the Chasm in the literate-illiterate divide is widening.
On the plus side, our organisation has laid strategies to ensure that we bridge this chasm. We are working to ensure that the kids that are facing basic literacy challenges receive targeted reading and writing interventions, advocating for more kids to have access to 'FPE' by challenging the status Quo and last but not least, improving Early Childhood Education. I am also encouraged by what UWEZO is doing. Chris, you are right....we are slowly but surely improving:-)
God bless you all

Jul 26, 2011
Literacy in Kenya
by: Chris - A child of Kenya

Of course Catherine is quite right. Primary education is not 'Free' at all.Young children in Kenya have had to work really hard to achieve the most basic levels of literacy. The education system in Kenya that was once admired has become so awful that even the teachers who generally try their best, cannot get the basic funds they need because what funding there was, has been stolen bit by bit as it passes from one official to the next.
However, literacy in Kenya continues to improve slowly.
Despite what officials say and want you to believe, corruption is so pervasive that it is now almost de rigueur to pay a bribe or for someone to 'take a cut'.
Outside agencies must cease handing over huge barrow loads of cash to 'help' the country out of a disasters every year. Funding should be provided only for a niche specific purpose, to teach and train the population how to be self sufficient and have a good work ethic. Failure to do this means the Country becomes more and more reliant on outside aid. This is why funding must be directed into education at all levels.
The expression "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish etc...." springs to mind here
Any funding given for specific projects such as education must be monitored and accounted for every step of the way by those who provide it, to ensure it achieves a positive outcome. A clean audit trail is necessary. Zero tolerance when it comes to accountability. The moment outside providers take their eye off the ball, the funding disappears into thin air.
So at the top it can be said the UNESCO definition of literacy is very high, it is at grass roots level where a new thinking and full accredited teaching needs to be focused.

Jul 26, 2011
The literacy levels are low
by: Catherine

It depends on what one means by literacy. Wikipedia gives the 2 definitions
1.The ability to read and write.
2. UNESCO- The "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society."
If we go with the 1st traditional definition then a lot of people would fall into the literate & semi-literate categories. If we take the 2nd definition of literacy provided by UNESCO, then Kenya will be found wanting.
I work for a development organisation, 50 kilometres east of Nairobi called Acres of Mercy. One would be forgiven for thinking that being in close proximity to the centre of Nairobi, that literacy levels might be admirable (referring to the first definition. Sadly that is not the case. Education in the Kangundo area faces the following impediments to the common man. The list is not exhaustive
1. What is termed as free Primary Education in actual fact is termed by the government as the KENYA EDUCATION SUPPORT PROGRAM. Support & free don’t mean the same thing yet the word free is uttered loosely & people have been duped. There is nothing free when a parent has to pay about 3000 shillings to enroll a child in school, a further 500 shillings for a desk that they cannot physically bring to school (more often than not the money is taken and the student given old desks) And YOU GET NO RECEIPT Then you have to buy uniform which sets you back another 2000, Exercise books etc the list is endless. Then you have to pay what they call the MOU an agreed amount of money towards development of the school on a termly basis, then there is PTA money for the teachers that aren’t on govt. payroll. The hidden charges are endless therefore many children are at home.
2 A parent earning an average of 2000 per month at best, raising at least 6000 for a child to be enrolled in the primary school system is prohibitive.
3.Parents level of education more often than not determines how far their offspring will pursue education.
4. Teachers in public schools tend to support children that are able to read leaving some to lag behind. When this happens, you will find a child has repeated a class even three times and the teacher’s comments in the report card read 'Very poor'. It begs the question, who is very poor? Is it the student who is being failed by the system or the teacher who has no empathy?
5. Last but not least, an early childhood education programme that is in need of a revamp. It produces robots instead of thinkers. This is what is available to the poor at a cost.
A vicious cycle.Experience on the ground tells me that statistics are puffed up. Each kenyan that fits the UNESCO def, should stand up &be counted in helping the less fortunate. Acresofmercy@yahoo.com

May 10, 2011
by: Anonymous


Feb 09, 2011
Kenya's literacy
by: Chris - a child of Kenya

You are right of course, the lack of schools and good teachers who know what to teach and how to teach is a huge distressing problem.
So much money (we are talking about millions of dollars here) has been provided to the Government by many different organizations, so that Kenya can build the schools it needs, train teachers and educate Kenya's children. Very little has ever reached the intended destination and no one is blamed. Why? because it has been corruptly misappropriated by individuals it was entrusted to, right down the line from the goverment to the lowest local officials,until there is no money to build the schools or train the teachers. A recent report into this terrible situation confirms that it has been going on for years. I pray that one day those people will be brought to book.

Feb 09, 2011
by: Eliza

dear readers
i believe the rate of literacy in Kenya can go even higher if the public and the government are willing for it. as much as primary education is free, parents must still pay for miscellaneous items like the school uniform etc. some children dont have the opportunity to even go to school because there simply is not one in their region that they as a family can afford.
to add on is the issue of facilities and the staff training. teachers MUST be equipped with the skills necessary to teach children. facilities such as extra curriculars must be offered because not all that children want to do at school is to learn! games, sports, arts, drama, music and more. if we really want change its also partly to us =)

Oct 12, 2010
by: Anonymous

its 100% literate n all most everyone can speak english

May 05, 2010
Kenya's Literacy Rate
by: Chris-A child of Kenya

Hello Archie;
Although Arjen is right to point out the stats from the CIA World Fact Book that the 85% literacy rate in Kenya dates back to 2003. It is my view that this % rate has not moved up but moved down, because of huge problems with teaching in Kenya schools, namely the lack of schools, good teachers and the fact that they do not get paid enough or not at all.
The birth rate in Kenya is growing at an alarming rate and has been for some years. The population of school aged children in Kenya is massive and families cannot afford the school fees, or the additional costs of sending their children to school. The literacy rate I had heard was that it had fallen below 80%. I fear that sometimes statistics are manipulated both by internal and external agencies according to their needs.
As long as we can help and play our part and can see for ourselves that the result of the huge amount of foreign aid and tourist income pouring into Kenya has really made a difference, we can believe some of the statistics. Until now that has sadly not appeared to have been the case.

May 05, 2010
Schools and Literarcy
by: Archie Melrose

Thankyou for your mail to this website and as one of the moderators I have to apologise for the late response.

There is no doubt in my mind that you have brought up points of discussion and interest. I feel your ache for the children in Kenya and its in my heart too. The supposed free education just stops at secondary level and then its up to parents to provide. Its ok I know that from personal experience and I wish it was easier.

At the risk of being stopped, refused entry etc into Kenya, I would hope that the Kenyan government would take primacy in their children and come up with some good plan that would be the envy of all other African nations. A plan that would commit all children to have good education without parents having to have financial problems.

Maybe it will happen one day



Apr 29, 2010
The price of literacy in Kenya
by: Chris

AS a child of Kenya, I can vouch for a generally higher than average literacy rate in Kenya compared to other African Countries.
Although 85% is not as high as some other places such as Kerala in India, where they claim a 100% literacy, it is great to have such a high proportion of Kenyan children so desperate to learn and those who have been able to achieve at school, go on to do great things.

Yes literacy in Kenya comes at a high price. Typically, parents are required to pay vast sums of money compared to their earnings if they want to educate their children. Many larger families find the costs can be so high, that they have to choose which child to send to school to be educated. This is in marked contrast to the system of free education in the UK up to pre University level for example.
Corruption in Kenya is probably the biggest cause of children there not being able to receive a good education.
If over the years, money destined for education was applied totally to the education programs, employing and paying teachers properly and regularly, building schools and installing the basic infrastructure like proper sanitation, a potable water supply and electricity, instead of money being misappropriated and diverted elsewhere, then who knows, the literacy rate in Kenya could be 100% and corruption levels may have decreased as education standards and literacy levels improved.
For the average family in Kenya, free education to secondary level is still a pipe dream.

Apr 29, 2010
Literacy rate in Kenya
by: Arjen (webmaster)

The CIA World Fact Book still gives a literacy rate of 85% of Kenya. But this is a 2003 figure. I remember to have read reports that the literacy rate went up in Kenya after free and compulsory education in Kenya. In other words, literacy is quite high in Kenya compared to other African countries.

Regarding free schools, they aren't entirely free since parents still have to pay for their childrens' school uniforms, which means a threshold for some.

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