Only one in four undergraduates is studying a course in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), despite the large number of related programmes on offer and the critical role they play in development, a review by Nation Newsplex reveals.

In contrast, more than two in five students (43 per cent) are enrolled in Business and Education courses.

Compared to 95,053 students in Business and Administration courses, there are 20,648 undergraduate students in engineering, 13,771 in Mathematics and Statistics and 20,925 in technology courses.

Business and Administration courses are the most popular, with 22 per cent of students enrolled. Education (Arts) have15 per cent and Humanities and Arts have nine per cent of students enrolled, according to the State of University Education in Kenya Report 2016.

At graduation time, only 20 per cent (44,386 undergraduates) received degrees in STEM from both public and public universities between 2012 and 2015. Comparatively, 137,325 students (63 per cent) graduated from Business, Education and Humanities courses in the same period.

Experts say Kenya needs to invest more in STEM if it is to transform into an industrialising middle-income country by 2030 as envisioned in its development plans.

A survey by Newsplex found that many university students ended up being enrolled in courses they did not choose, or did not understand.

Prof Ddembe Williams, the Project Director for Research and Information at Linking Industry with Academia Trust (LIWA), says the inability for the country to match its academic input with industrial needs could be as a result of the nature of Kenya’s Education System that does not expose children to STEM careers early in life.

Williams says that because of lack of facilities and resources at universities to facilitate high quality learning some of the STEM graduates lack requisite skills.

One of the worst affected sectors is health, with only 22 doctors per 100,000 people, which is way below the World Health Organisation recommended rate, and 4,077 in training, according to data from the Economic Survey 2017.

According to the World Bank, the rate of unemployment for youths aged between 15-24 stands at 17 per cent in Kenya.

Hiring expatriates

The lack of expertise in STEM fields results in the African continent in general spending approximately Sh404 billion every year in hiring expatriates to provide these services, according to the International Organisation of Migration.

A survey by Newsplex found that many university students ended up being enrolled in courses they did not choose, or did not understand.

For instance, Stacy (she did not want her surname to be used), a student pursuing a Diploma in Business and Information Technology at Strathmore University narrates how her parent talked her out of her course of interest to pursue a path that, her parent believed, was best for her.

“Having completed my KCSE in 2016, I applied twice to be accepted for an agriculture course but in vain. I also have huge interest in psychology, but my parent talked me out of it, saying that there is no market for psychologists in Kenya, so I ended up here.”

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