As the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam starts tomorrow, alarms keep ringing on the dire state of girls’ education in seven counties.

Progress in achieving gender parity in basic education remains uneven across Kenya with girls continuing to lag way behind boys in key performance indicators such as transition and completion rates as well as exam grades, a Nation Newsplex investigation reveals.

Last year girls made up 28 per cent and boys 72 per cent of KCSE candidates in Wajir, the county that recorded the widest gender gap. The share of girls sitting the examination in Wajir dropped by one per cent compared to 2014.

The county was followed from the rear by Mandera and Garissa, where girls constituted 29 per cent and boys 71 per cent of the candidates. Girls in Garissa improved by one per cent over the previous year, while the figures in Mandera were unchanged.

In Turkana, Tana River, Lamu and Samburu, only one in three of the candidates were girls, the Newsplex analysis shows.

While releasing KCPE results last December Education Secretary Fred Matiang’i tasked county education directors with putting in place interventions that will ensure that all girls of school - going age in marginalised counties are enrolled in school.

Proof that educators are not equipped to immediately answer the alarm is the fact that the situation is getting worse or not improving in several counties. The proportion of girls who sat the examination in Lamu declined by five per cent to 39 per cent in 2015 from 44 per cent the previous year, while it dropped one percentage point from 29 per cent to 28 in Wajir.

In Turkana 32 per cent of the candidates were girls for the two years examined. But in Tana River there was a rare, significant jump of five percent from 30 per cent to 35 per cent in the share of girls who sat KCSE.

In these arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya, the story is much the same at the primary school level. KCPE results from 2014, two years ago, show Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Turkana and Samburu had a large gender gap with boys more than girls by 34, 34, 36, 28 and 18 percentage points respectively.

The 2015 KCPE results show five counties recorded notable gender gaps. Mandera, Garissa, Turkana, Wajir and Samburu, had more boys than girls by 34, 32, 30, 28 and 22 percentage points, respectively.

While the gender gap over the two years narrowed in Garissa, Wajir and Mandera by two, four and two percentage points, it increased in Turkana by two percentage points and in Samburu by four percentage points.

While releasing KCPE results last December Education Secretary Fred Matiang’i tasked county education directors with putting in place interventions that will ensure that all girls of school - going age in marginalised counties are enrolled in school.

Uwezo Kenya Country Manager Dr Emmanuel Manyasa says the seven counties are lagging behind in girls education because most parents in those area prefer to take boys to school than girls.

“The environment for girls to go to school is not conducive. Boys can walk long distances in the environment that may not be conducive, but that is not the case for girls,” he says.

Dr Manyasa says in such communities girls are still looked upon as resources, in that they are married off in exchange of cows, making it hard for them to pursue education.

Moi University lecturer Prof Okumu Bigambo says the problem in the regions is lack of effective needs analysis. “Do the affected communities need education, or is survival is more important?” he asks.

Prof Bigambo says a community that does not have food, security or hope finds it difficult to focus on education. “Yes education is important, but when those who have not gone to school look at those who went to school and see hopelessness with no impact or meaningful life, then education is not important to them at all,” he says.

He adds that girls perform worse than boys as they are not given necessary attention by their parents.

At secondary level more boys than girls sat KCSE in 38 counties last year. In the last decade, nationally, the proportion of female KCSE candidates have wavered between 44 and 47 per cent while the percentage of girls who sat KCPE examination increased by 2.5 per cent from 47.1 to 49.6 percent, according to data from the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC).

Given that the population of Kenya is split right in the middle by gender it means that girls’ participation in KCPE is almost the same as their proportion in the population.

LAGGING BEHIND

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