The role of preparing youth as they transition to take personal and community responsibility is a crucial one for families and the community. In Kenya today, there is intense and growing interest at national, county, and constituency levels in identifying support and opportunities for better developmental outcomes for youth. Government agencies, community leaders and civil society activists are focusing on empowering the youth. Through Kenya Vision 2030 the Government has identified young people as a key resource whose behaviour and decisions will have a direct bearing to the attainment of the vision’s objectives of an industrialized country with high quality of life.
The transition to adulthood for young people is fraught with challenges. Some of these revolve around personal development especially rapid biological changes as they grow. Others are structural; involving the environment in which they must live and thrive. In many instances young people are not in control of their social and physical environment in the family and social institutions such as the Government. Fortunately experience shows that it is possible to work in partnership with families, communities, government, and friends to create and advance a vision of youth development that empowers them for the expected responsibility. In order for young people to develop to their full potential, families and society at large need to invest in young people as a deserved nurturing responsibility.
Investing in youth is important since, since youth contributes to an in-built population growth momentum in Kenya, especially due to increase in the number of young men and women entering reproductive age. The large number of youth in the population is also an important equity reason to invest in young people’s health and development. Highlighting the potential benefits of such investment will enable Kenyans to identify priority actions with highest positive impact to youth development. Education has been identified as one means of empowering youth.
Education forms the very essence of life. Human experience indicates that here is possibly very little if at all anyone could do without knowing or having learned, either through instructions or through observation and assimilation. The importance of education is acknowledged in every society and in Kenya it is an inalienable right enshrined in the constitution. The article 53 of the constitution provides that the state is to take measures including affirmative action programmes to ensure that the youth access relevant education. In this respect parents and the government are duty bound to ensure children get an education. Indeed it is punishable in law for parents to fail to take their children to school in Kenya.
Acquiring a good education helps empower people enabling them cope in the society and strong enough to look after themselves in any given situation. Education is a mind opener that expands the capacity for one to receive new knowledge providing the person vital skills to cope in their environment. As a human development process education is a necessity, whose primary purpose in society is self-empowerment. Another reason why education is important is that it helps citizens to understand their rights and duties enabling them play their role in personal and community development. With education citizens acquire knowledge, skills and the necessary attitudes to help them realize their potential and qualities as human beings. An academic qualification for example increases the chances of employment and prospect to earn a decent life as well as facilitating personal growth and fulfillment. In general, the role of education is especially important in winning acceptance for new ideas that involve unfamiliar concepts and require unconventional ways of thinking. Education’s role in such undertakings is not only to make people more knowledgeable and better informed, but also more ethical, responsible and critical.
Benefits of Education in Population Management
Governments all over the world are interested in more than teaching people to read and write. Education provides citizens with not only the learning that takes place in schools, but also the critical acquisition of knowledge, values and attitudes that occur in homes, work places and communities as well as through the mass media. According to the World Bank, education is one of the most effective as well as acceptable means through which policy-makers can intervene with regard to the population challenge.
The significance of education for demographic purposes was stated in ICPD 1994 which requires countries to ensure both girls and boys complete full course of primary schooling. Governments can mandate school attendance, invest in school buildings, libraries, public television and radio and indeed, take a whole range of decisions aimed at extending the reach and improving the quality of education. According to Kenya Population Situation Report of 2013, education is associated with lower fertility and mortality. Education is also closely linked to poverty reduction as it raises productivity among better informed citizens and broadens livelihoods options.
Education Influences Teenage Fertility
Investing in higher quality education and expanding the quantity of education opportunities will have positive demographic and economic outcomes. Several studies have over time shown correlation between education level of a woman and fertility. The 2009 Population and Housing Census indicated that fertility differentials were mainly due to education and poverty levels while the 2008-09 KDHS revealed that women with no education had more than double the number of children compared with women with at least some secondary education (TFR of 6.7 for women with no education to a low of 3.1 for those with education). These findings point to the need to expand education programmes to enroll and retain girls to at least secondary school education to significantly contribute to reduction of teenage fertility and overall fertility.
Education and Sexual Debut
Young Kenyan women experience early sexual debut, early marriages, early child bearing and many of the pregnancies are unintended. Analysis have shown that Keeping girls longer in schools delays commencement of sex which tends to reduce the number of children a woman has in a lifetime. Further more educated women are more likely to use family Planning and tend to have fewer children in order to pursue careers.
Education, Dependency and Quality of Work
Investment in education and technology, harnessing of new innovations and improvement in the investment climate, infrastructure, health care, and building institutional capacities, may enable Kenya to gain from the large and expanding workforce. In Kenya working age population is projected to increase and by year 2020 the gap will widen as the proportion of the working age population will grow much faster than dependant population ages. Dependency Ratio is a fraction of a population of “dependent’ ages (those under age 15 and age 65 years and above) to the working age population (Ages 15-64 years) in a population. Reduced dependency ratios will allow greater personal savings and government spending. Kenya will therefore be in a position to gain from a large number of young people in the population or reap the “Demographic Dividend” if investments are made in education, health and favorable economic policies are made in preparation of incorporating the youth into the work force.
Education is a right to all citizens irrespective of age and this is for important reasons. According to the African Youth Chatter, Governments should enact laws to mandate extended schooling for longer periods of time and equally for females and males, promote female education to increase enrolment and attainment, prioritize measures that increase the number of females who complete secondary education and among other things promote informal education programmes for youth out of school. Programme experience has shown that when adolescent girls are not members of institutions like schools, workplaces, information network or youth organizations due to poverty or any other reason it is usually very difficult to reach them with information on a range of issues that affect them as a special group in society.
In Kenya many young people still have little or no skills and are therefore excluded from productive economic and social life. Those that have some education exhibit skills irrelevant to current demand in the labour market, in a situation where educational and skill requirements are increasing, resulting in many unemployed and underemployed youth. The problem is compounded by continuing decline in quality of education and training due to high demand of teachers and trainers.
The need to improve the quality of education and training for the youth cannot be over-emphasized. There is also a need for technical and vocational programmes for out-of-school youth. Technological awareness, problem-solving and scientific approaches in curriculum delivery must be the hallmark of education and training. Above all, access to education has to be expanded, especially for marginalized youth-notably, rural youth, the physically challenged and isolated ethnic communities.
The Government recognizes that education is important to the sustainability of any development endeavor and has taken deliberate steps to improve youth development. The entire Government machinery has been aligned to meet youth as they confront issues that have impeded their development in the past including quality education. The Ministry of Devolution and Planning is coordinating the efforts to empower young people while the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is laying the foundation for the next generation of Kenyans by imparting Knowledge, skills and attitudes for the future through education and training. With effective educational programmes that constantly inform young people, equip them with the requisite skills, and develop their creative abilities Kenya can hope to sustain its long-term development and improve its competitiveness and quality of life for the people.