I want my daughter to take care of me - A study about secondary education in Kenya with special emphasis on the family background of the students

Internship Report, 2007

55 Pages, Grade: 1,0


1. Introduction

“I want my daughter to take care of me and the family“, this was the answer of a lot of Kenyan parents, after they have been asked why they send their children to secondary education. In Kenya secondary education is still very problematic, as it is cost school fees and this money is often too much for the low-earning families. Therefore only 30% of the eligible students[1] are going to secondary schools in Kenya (Aduda, Daily Nation, 14.06.2007). The majority has to drop out of school, even if they have good grades in the primary school. Those schools are free of charge since the government change in 2002, and therefore more and more parents are sending their children to primary school.

During a three-month stay in Kenya I had the chance to conduct an interview with parents, who send their girls to a secondary school in Mabungo, a village next to the city of Ukunda. My aim was to find out, why parents decided to send the girls to school and what they expect from those investments in the future.

Four leading hypotheses were established before the interviews took place, namely:

1. Families that have the choice of sending boys or girls to school prefer the boys. Therefore the families that send the girls to the Diani Maendeleo Academy either also have their boys in school, or do not have any sons and therefore concentrate on their daughters.
2. Only parents who are educated themselves also care about education for their children.
3. The work that has to be done around the house prevents parents from sending their children to school, since their working skills are needed in order to feed the family
4. Parents see the investing in their children as a step into a secure future for themselves, which is often the main reason why they send their children to school.

In order to find out whether those hypotheses apply, the interview was constructed around those questions. The results showed that especially hypothesis 4 was correct, while the hypotheses 2 and 3 can be partly denied. Hypothesis 1 also seems to be true, even though the education of girls seems to get more important.

The set-up of the paper will reconstruct the approach, which was taken in order to find answers to the hypotheses. In the first part the methodology, which was chosen in order to construct and implement the interview, will be described. After this the answers will be described and it will be shown that especially the fourth hypothesis is true and of crucial importance for parents that send their girls to secondary schools. In the following section it will be checked if the results of the interview are in line with other research practices or if the results differ from what other scientists found out. The special circumstances, which maybe lead to differences, will be described in the next section, and therefore it is of importance to closer, describe the area of the coast in Kenya and the city of Ukunda. Other explanations for differences might include mistakes made by the researcher, special attributes of the Diani Maendeleo Academy compared to other schools in, or even a change in attitude of people towards the educational system since 2002.

The fifth section will take one finding of the paper under closer investigation. Most parents answered that they send their children to school so that the children can ensure a better future for themselves and for the whole family. It seems like the education of the children can serve as a kind of “retirement fund”. Therefore the attitude of Kenyans towards the family will be analysed. The same will be done for German families, as an example for an Western welfare state, and in the next step the differences and similarities will be compared. Germany can serve as an example of an industrialised country, and a European country in which a long history of social welfare exists. Analysing more or even all-Western countries would be too ambitious for this paper, and therefore a concentration on Germany is necessary.

One result will be that Kenyan’s depend more on the family as a retirement fond while this is different in Germany or even more general all over Europe. Therefore the state has a higher responsibility in those countries, which on the other hand is also possible due to the higher financial abilities of the German state compared to the Kenyan.

2. The Interview

During my stay in Kenya one of the tasks was to conduct a study about a specific topic of a developing country. I decided to conduct a study about schools in Kenya in general and about secondary schooling in Kenya in special. Two reasons were crucial for this decision.

On the one hand the Kenyan school system is in a very interesting and unique situation in the moment, since basic changes have been applied after the change in government in 2002. The new government under the leadership of Mwai Kibaki abolished the school fees for elementary schools. This will also bring a new situation to secondary schools in a few years since the number of candidates that qualify for a secondary school will rise significantly (Ehlert, 2007). Therefore a study of the recent secondary school system could give hints about which necessary steps have to be implied in order to secure that students who will finish elementary school in the next years can go on to secondary schools.

On the other hand and more practical side it is easier to get into contact with people who are concerned with school issues once close contact with this institution is created. Parents, teachers or students would be target groups who can easily get reached, since they interact with the schools on regular basis. I chose the interview form, as it seems to be a good choice as the attitude of the people can be seen directly and not only through secondary sources. One of the advantages, which an internship in a school offers and which I enjoyed during my stay was that the contact to the locals could easily be achieved through this institution. Creating contact with local or even national institutions in order to collect official data would have been much more complicated. On the local level there are very few collected data and virtually none about secondary schooling of the area. The national level on the other hand was far away and finding data about the specific situation of Ukunda or even Kwale district would have been almost impossible. Collecting data by myself therefore seemed very logical.

Collecting data at the Diani Maendeleo Academy was possible but also brings some limitation to the possibility of generalising the results. As only one school in the coast area, was chosen as a place to conduct the interview, it is not possible to say whether the same results would come out for a study of ten different schools. The school also has some special features, such as being a school for girls only or the try to also give students from poor families a chance, so that generalisations of this study might prove difficult.[2]

2.1 Prior Thoughts to the interview

The first important issue was to find the correct target group. Since I wanted to conduct a study about education in Kenya the possible target groups were already limited because only people that have an interest in education were interesting for this study. However there were still four possible groups of persons who could be interviewed and every group would most likely give different answers and perspectives. Due to the fact that only limited time was available I could only choose one group. In the following the four possible groups will be introduced and reasons will be given why the fourth group was chosen.

2.1.1 The directors/sponsors of the school

Foreign donors run a lot of secondary schools, especially the private schools. Those foreign donors could have been an interesting group for interviews, as there reasons for supporting education in Kenya could have been established. This might give evidence as how more people could get motivated to support schools. The millennium development goals are mostly concerned with primary education (see for example Nuscheler, 2004) and therefore it would be an important step to find more private donors who support secondary education.

However a study like this would most likely require a lot of time and resources. In every school only one of those interviews could be conducted since there is only one main sponsor, which means that in order to reach enough participants it would have been necessary to contact a big numbers of schools. Even if the directors would have agreed to take part in the study travelling and a longer time period would have been necessary. Three month most likely would not be long enough to get answers from this group. A second reason against this group was that the study should mostly look into the situation and attitudes of Kenyans, while the donors are most of the time from other countries.

2.1.2 Teachers

Another group who is very important for schools in general is the group of teachers. Their attitude and motivation highly influences the grades and therefore the success of the students in school. The ideas of the teacher which things are necessary in order to improve the situation of schools are more elaborated and there ideas might give important hints about which aspect of the schooling needs to be improved.

However two aspects finally spoke against choosing teacher as target groups. The first reason was that teachers know very much about the institution school. The intention of the studies was to interview a very heterogeneous group, but most or even all teachers have some similarities in their background such as good education up until the university level, a secured income and mostly a relative stable life situation in general.

One the other hand, which was the more important reasons, teachers normally cannot make the basic decision of sending children to school. Only in their role as parents teachers can do this, but as part of the school administration they can only work with students who already go to school.

2.1.3 Students

The students are a big part of the educational system, since the leading and main idea of school is to enable them to get a good education and to secure the students a bright future. Therefore the opinion of this group might be very important if they establish which parts of the learning seem important to them.

But this seems only theoretically as a good option, as asking students about their personal opinions about school might always be a risky matter, since the answers might not really be well reflected. If students get asked about what they would change in school, it seems likely that they would choose answers, which would secure them an easier life in school. They might want to replace subjects which are unpopular amongst most students (such as sciences or mathematics) but which can be very important for them in their later life. Students are also people who are very young and might not possess the necessary life experience to see which things are of importance for their future professions. Therefore interviewing the students in order to get a positive picture about the institution school did not seem to be a realistic option.

2.1.4 Parents and Guardians

The last group, which was finally chosen as target group for the interview, were the parents of the students. They are the ones who are mostly responsible for sending their children to secondary schools and they also have to carry the financial weight of the school education. Secondary schooling in Kenya is never free of charge and reach from 150 Euro per year up to 600 or even more Euro for the best schools in the country. For most Kenyans this sum is a very big investment. Therefore parents who send their children to secondary schools must have a severe interest in their education. One of the questions, which were of interest for me, was whether the parents expected certain topics, which need to be covered in school, or if they are just satisfied that their children go to school and that they have no further expectations since they have trust in the school system. If they have certain expectations it would be interesting to establish them in order to see what would be necessary in order to motivate even more people to send their children to school.

Another aspect, which I wanted to research, was the background of the families of our students. A common hypothesis is that only sons and daughters of educated people go to secondary school themselves and that an elite system is manifested through this.

An additional advantage of interviewing parents compared to teachers is that more parents belong to one school than teachers. The Diani Maendeleo Academy has over 60 students who are taught by 8 teachers, which shows that if only those people get interviewed a sample of parents is significantly bigger than if the teachers of the school were interviewed. Therefore most reasons were positive to form parents/guardians as the target group for the interview.

After parents were established as the target group I faced the question who exactly shall be interviewed and what shall be done in cases when the parents have passed away. This is a typical problem in Africa which also faces Kenya, namely that a lot of children are widows since their parents died at an early age. The immune disease HIV is a big factor in this trend as the average life expectancy of Kenyans has declined in the last years. The life expectancy in the Kwale district is 49,5, and has dropped because of the immune disease (Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Natural Ressources, 2006). Therefore I decided to include guardians in the study, since those are people who continue the education process instead of the parents. Normally those guardians are also related to the students, and they can have a similar interest in ensuring the best diploma for their family members. Especially the fact that the guardians usually live together with the students makes their position very comparable to the ones of parents.

One other limiting aspect was that only one parent/guardian per student was included in the study. Even though in some cases father and mother show a vital interest in the education of their child and maybe even offer different perspectives this limitation seemed nonetheless important. Without a limit it could come to multiple answers for one student, since theoretically also other guardians must have been included. But since parents/guardians of one student mostly share similar perspective it seems that including more than one guardian per student might unbalance the study too much into a certain direction.

2.2 Set-up of the Interview

During the set-up of the interview the main aim was to find question which can answer the main hypotheses and that also make sure that the formal limits which were laid down in the last section were kept.

Therefore the role of the first two questions was to make sure that no person would answer the interview twice and that also one answer was given per student.

The next questions starting from question four were designed to give answers to two hypotheses, namely hypotheses 1 and 3 (see introduction). Those questions were created in order to find out more about the family background of the students. If the case would arise that predominately parents that only have girls send their daughters to school, this could point towards the fact that if parents have a choice they prefer to send their boys to school. Therefore the number of males and females per household is an important indicator to see if this trend is there or not. Also the question of the careers or professions of the other members of the household is an indicator. If for example all sons go to school, and the daughter that goes to Diani Maendeleo Academy would be the only female this would clearly point in the same direction. If on the other hand boys and girls live in the family and only one girl (or even more girls) go to school, this hypothesis would not be true, at least for this family. Also the hypothesis that parents do not send children to school because of work, which has to be done in the household, can be answered by looking at the background of the family. Parents who have a lot of children who do not have to do daily work might not need another helping person in the household as much as farmers or families that consist of only a few people. Question 13 is directly aimed at this, but also other questions can indirectly answer this hypothesis.

The questions 8 to 12 were designed in order to see the support that the education enjoys among the family. It might quite possible be that only one parent supports the education, while the other might prefer the daughter to stay at home in order to help doing the daily work. Question 9 directly asks the parents/guardians for the reasons why they send their children to school. Therefore this question is designed in order to answer hypothesis number 4, namely that the responsible people see the education of the young people as an investment for their own retirement.

Questions 14 and 15 were designed to see the religiosity of the families. One popular view is that Muslims believe less in the education of girls, as they are mostly concerned with the lives of their sons (Kelek, 2005). The coast region in Kenya is a mainly Islamic area, which comes from the history, as the Muslims were the first who started trading with this area (Sperling, 2000). If especially strong believing Muslims do not see girl’s education as important, most answer should be that the parents/guardians see themselves as less religious. If the answers are different, this hypothesis can be denied at least for this school.

The next questions are designed to answer another main hypothesis namely that only educated parents send their children to school. Those questions (16-18) directly ask for the level of education that the responsible persons in the household have. Since not always the person who sends the girl to the secondary school might answer the interview question 17 and 18 had to be an inclusive part of the interview. The following part (questions 19-20) is designed for those parents/guardians who went to school themselves in order to see what skills they need in their daily life. This might be important to see if the topics, which were taught to them in school, were appropriate or if they wish the school to include different subjects.

The last part of the interview deals with the expectations that parents have when they send their children to school. It was designed to find out if in order to see if parents/guardians expect that their daughters take a certain job or if they value education as a benefit in itself that provides the students with multiple opportunities. The next two questions shall show how parents value the chances of finding a job for people with a secondary degree. A comparison with students who did not go to secondary school shall show how much the parents think the chances improve if the students go to secondary school.

In the end of the interview the final questions asks if parents think that equality between boys and girls has been established in Kenya yet. Even though this group who answers this question (parents who send their girls to secondary education) might not be representative it might at least show the opinion of this group.

Conclusively it can be said that the interview set-up was designed in order to find answers for the main hypothesis. After an introductory part, which shall ensure that no data is collected twice the questions directly aim at those hypothesis.

2.3 Methodology used by creating this Interview

One of the first priorities was to find a decent length for the interview, considering that it shall not take to much time in order to answer it. If an interview is too long the participant might be less willing to answer the question in detail (Engel, 2006 in Stichproben in Bevölkerungsumfragen). On the other hand the interview must be long enough in order to find answers for the main hypothesis. As an average the interview shall be possible to be answered in 15-20 minutes, at least when the questions and answers require no translating (Burnham, Gilland, Grant and Layton-Henry, 2004. p. 96).

Another question was how the interview shall be conducted, as the methodology must be slightly different in cases of a direct asked interview or in cases when students take the interview home to the parents so that those can fill it out. In those kind of studies the direct questioning is the most common method, as around 85% of all interviews are set-up in this way (Schimpl-Neimanns, 2006). In this case it made more sense to use an interview, which can be recorded in a direct talk due to a variety of reasons. On the one hand this method ensures that the right person answers the question, compared to when students are send home with the written interview. The possibility might exist that they fill it out themselves or even give it to other persons if the parents declare they do not want to do it. On the other hand the participants of the interview are likely to give longer and more detailed answers when they are not forced to write them down themselves but instead only have to give their answers verbally. But the most important reason why those letters cannot be given to the parents is the problem that some of the parents are illiterate. In Kenya the illiteracy rate is around 30%, which makes it very likely that also some of the parents are not able to read or write sufficiently (Human Development Report, 2003). Therefore an interview that can be read to the parents seemed as the most appropriate solution.

In order to give the participants the chance to answer the question freely it is important to imply qualitative as well as quantitative questions. This is the method which is implied in most questionnaires (Shadish, Cook and Campbell, 2002) and is also useful because otherwise the researcher might influence the answers too much (Küsters, 2006). Therefore especially for the parts in which opinions shall be given, it was important to make sure that the possibility exists that the participants of the study can give open answers. This makes it harder to measure the answers and place them into categories. It is difficult to find hard data in this open question, but on the other hand this set-up makes it possible to identify opinions, which the researcher would not have recognized with closed questions (Wohlrab-Sahr, 2000).

The positive thing about quantitative data is that if it is implied correctly it can give statistical evidence. It is easier to rank the answers in categories, even though some scientific researchers warn of over-emphasising the accuracy of those numbers. Spicker (2006) says about quantitative data: “They tend to give the impression of accuracy and precision, and it is probably appropriate to start with a healthy warning. The kinds of problems which are dealt with in public policy are often fairly ill-defined and the implications are often uncertain” If the categories are not defined clearly quantitave data is even more useless than qualitative data, but if implemented correctly they can show relations. Quantitative and qualitative questions are thus both essential parts of a study, and both categories have to be included in this interview (p.72).

Another problem, which had to be taken care of, was the language barrier. Kenya is a multiethnic country, as 42 different tribes live in those borders, and every tribe speaks their own language. It is not possible to translate the interview in all those 42 languages and therefore a common working basis has to be found. The two official languages in Kenya are English and Kiswahili, and prior to my arrival in Kenya I expected that everybody was able to speak at least partially English. For the young and educated people this is true, due to the fact that all subjects in secondary schools have to be taught in English. But especially the less educated and older parents/guardians of the students have problems with the English language, which made it necessary to have an English and a Kiswahili version of the interview.[3]

2.4 Implementing of the Interview

In this section not only the implementing of the interview shall be described but also the period, which was necessary before it was possible to start this process. While working in a different culture it is of crucial importance to first carefully analyse the area and the mentality of the people before starting a study. The first necessary steps as organizing the internship, preparing the travel or similar activities were done from Germany. The interview itself however was not fully planned in Germany, as I wanted to wait until I saw the place in which the study was going to take place. Lueger describes the first phase as crucial in order to study the local circumstances (2000). Before the arrival in Kenya I hoped to get data from local authorities, which later proved to be impractical due to a lack of those. This is one of the typical problems that students who first conduct a field study face, namely that things which are planned without recognizing the local standards usually do not work out as supposed (Watts, 2006). Thus the first weeks were used in order to get an overview over the area of Ukunda in general and over the school in specific. It was also important to start a trust relationship with the students and other workers in school. It is important to first become at least partially a member of the organisation, so that the participants trust the interviewer more than in cases when a complete outsider performs this task (see Lueger, 2000). During that time I performed other duties for school, which included administration work, writing articles or translating from German to English. But more importantly I started to teach English and Physical Education, which made it possible to get into closer contact with the students in the school. It was also possible to talk to the students outside from class, so that the students started to build a trust-relationship. An extreme example of this theory is Allan (2002) who took one year to build a trust relationship, as she had meals or social activities with the locals before she even started conducting her study. Most researchers can not afford to take such a long time, but it shows that coming in and asking questions directly might be problematic as data might be hold back due to a lack of trust in the researcher. Another duty that took place in the beginning time was to speak with the supervisor about the planned interview. Even though the organisation gave me enough freedom to ask the questions that were of interest for me, it was helpful to take other opinions into consideration. Especially the supervisor who is also a German, but who lives since five years in Kenya could give helpful advice for setting-up the interview. At this time I also performed a task which is crucial for fieldwork namely to learn a few basic words of the local language. Even though it is not possible to learn a language fluently in such a short time, a few general words are always helpful in creating contact to the local population. Gottlieb sees the attempt to learn the local language as one of the most central parts of a good research. “Most people are genuinely touched when outsiders try to learn their language, and no matter how modest your level of competence, your attempts will probably be greatly appreciated. Winning peoples` trust and willingness to share their opinions can be accomplished far more easily and quickly once you have convinced them that you are on their side. And making at least some effort to speak their language is a prime way to demonstrate this” (2006).

Due to a lack of time it was not possible to learn the language Kiswahili fluently but after a short time I was able to do greetings or a few general explanations in this language. However, if a whole interview needed to be done in Kiswahili a translator was necessary. In my case it was possible to do this with help from school, one of the teachers of Kiswahili helped out in those cases. Around halve of the interviews were held in Kiswahili while the rest was conducted in English. In all cases the translator was presented in order to help out when some vocabulary was missing.


[1] Students that have a qualifying primary school diploma

[2] For more details about this problems see section 4.3

[3] For a closer description see section 2.4 Implementing of the interview

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I want my daughter to take care of me - A study about secondary education in Kenya with special emphasis on the family background of the students
University of Twente  (Political Institute )
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Daniel Schmidt (Author), 2007, I want my daughter to take care of me - A study about secondary education in Kenya with special emphasis on the family background of the students, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/91674


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