Education in Kenya in the post pandemic era; twists and turns


The world has experienced a crisis since the eruption of COVID–19 pandemic in December 2019. The containment measures regressed the global economy, contracting Kenya’s economy by 1.0% by the end of 2020. The education sector was adversely affected, as learning institutions remained closed due to their consideration as a high-risk area. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by April 30th, 2020, about 1.5 billion learners, accounting for approximately 84.5% of learners from 165 countries remained at home due to the country-wide closures.  The magnitude of the crisis was felt in Kenya as more than 17 million enrolled learners lacking formal access to learning for about 40 weeks. Resultantly, the pandemic tested education sector resilience and the capacity to maintain learning beyond physical engagement

What actions did the government take?

With such huge numbers missing the fundamental skills of the 21st Century that school offers, the Government of Kenya (GoK) had to re-imagine the education sector in Kenya. In line with global practice, the Ministry of Education (MoE) had to redesign the teaching paradigms suitable for the prevailing situation. It established an ambitious remote learning initiative that was meant to catapult the continuation of syllabus coverage in schools from basic education to higher learning institutions. The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) offered the curriculum through virtual learning Kenya Education Cloud and other digital platforms such TV (EDU TV) and Youtube. To cater to learners within the rural areas, educational programs within the radio stations (Radio Taifa and the English Channel) were scaled up from 4.5hrs for pre – COVID to 8hrs a day during the pandemic. To support the capacity building of basic education teachers, KICD established Elimika, an online-based portal where teachers can access courses on ICT integration in teaching.

Were the actions sufficient?

However, the remote learning approach was limited by various factors which ended up locking out a significant of learners. Accessibility was a key problem. The digital divide bread an educational divide with only about 22% of Kenyan learners could having an access to e-learning sessions. Lack of access gadgets, low/lack affordability of internet connectivity with most areas have 2G network and lack of electricity created digital divide exacerbating the inequality among the learners. 

Factual Figures

  • Only 47.3% of individuals own mobile phones in Kenya (KNBS, 2019)
  • 40.7% of individuals own Television (KNBS, 2019)
  • 56.9% own radios (KNBS, 2019)
  • 50.4%  have access to electricity (KNBS, 2019)
  • 19.3% have access to solar power (KNBS, 2019)
  • 27.0% have access to smart Phones ( 2017 Statistics from GSMA)

Effectiveness was also a problem. Lack of teacher-learners contact reduced the attention and understanding of students with most learners dropping out. Notably, virtual learning was exclusive of learners with special needs and varied learning abilities. With mainstream technology catering to the needs of the “normal children”, the special children were left out. 

In decades to come, the effect of the learning gap between the poor or disabled learners and the rich learners shall be evident as learning poverty is projected to increase

Post-pandemic education

After the prolonged stay-at-home period, the government had to face the delicate balance between the huge health risk and opening schools. For basic and secondary education, the traditional approach of face-to-face “direct instruction” was resumed on a staggered approach with the majority reporting on January 4th, 2021. With high levels of anxiety and uncertainty for both parents and children, the government assured adherence to strict health and hygiene protocols.

So what do we expect?

It is still too early to predict the full impact of re-opening schools as the COVID-19 curve reportedly remains flat since school re-opening.  From the reported medical statistics, the reported cases of children below the age of 16 years are minimal compared to the adults. However, there is a catch; children carry a similar viral load as adults. This means that even though, they may not display symptoms, they could be “carriers” posing a risk to the adult family members. As such, there is a likelihood that a new breakout of coronavirus will happen in the new future. 

This, therefore, presents an unparalleled opportunity for the policymakers to think ahead of time

Blended learning for higher education, is it the way to go?

Owing to challenges related to remote learning, early and basic education has resumed face-to-face learning. The Commission of Higher Education (CUE) has released a regulation to the institutions of higher learning to adopt a blended learning approach. Blended Learning is a method of teaching that integrates technology and digital media with traditional instructor-led classroom activities, giving students more flexibility to customize their learning experiences.

Before COVID-19, most of the public universities had established e-learning platforms to facilitate distance learning and interactions for students. With the blended approach, such platforms have been enhanced to support about 50% of modules undertaken by all students online. Taking an example of Moi University System of Managing Instruction (MUSOMI), the system is designed such that instructors and learners can interact on a real-time basis, which enables effective monitoring of classes online. Instructors can take a roll of students in attendance while monitoring the prompt submission of assessments. Even though the system cannot predict academic dishonesty, such as impersonation, it has an inbuilt plagiarism checker to ascertain the authenticity of the submitted assessments. Enhance Internet broadband, has been boosted in the university to increase student accessibility without overwhelming the system. This is the addition of the University rolling out a laptop scheme in its strategic plan to produce laptops that can be provided to students at a part-payment agreement over some time. Establishing a digital center within the university shall provide an opportunity for the students unable to afford laptops to access the online classes. Meanwhile, to increase the efficiency of learning, the university is currently reviewing the curriculum to establish which classes can be taken online and which classes to be undertaken face to face. 

Among the advantages of blended learning witnessed so far, the financially struggling university has been able to cut down the cost of operation owing to the merging of geographically different classes and elimination of extensive physical infrastructure. The cost of hiring part-time lecturers which have previously burden the university has now been eliminated, with resources being channeled to enhancing the quality of learning such as Research and Development. In the same vein, the university through online learning sessions has been able to invite industry experts to tool students on practical skills of the curriculum and providing alternative perspectives on theory. The support has further extended to accommodate partnership with research institutions which fosters interactive learning geared towards innovations. Borrowing from the developed countries educations sector collaboration with industries, universities cannot produce useful innovation without practical knowledge from the industry. 

While it is early to highlight the impact of blended learning on the quality of education in Kenya, several glaring loopholes need to be addressed. The inclusivity of digital learning is still questionable. Learners with special needs such as hearing and seeing have been left out. This, therefore, excludes students with hearing and visual in Kenya. As such, universities should acquire digital and online technologies to support blended learning for learners with special needs. Such technologies include assistive technology, tape recorders, braille printers, screen enlargement, virtual touch among others. 

Another obvious challenge is the huge risk of data protection in the storage and access of student information. Whilst some universities have tried to mitigate this problem through; creating non-web-based off-side data storage, establishing protective firewalls, and migrating to cloud-based storage, data protection still poses a threat to the universities. There is a need for the recent data protection act of 2016 to shed more light on the context for the privacy of learners and establish a stern legislative landscape to regulate the collection, use, and protection of student data. 

So what is the future of blended learning for institutions of higher learning in Kenya? There is a likelihood that universities may ultimately abolish the traditional approach and adopt a blended approach. Some courses may be purely transitioned to an online approach. As the culture of online learning continues to entrench in society and the industry appreciates such acquired degrees, it possesses stiff competition for local universities. There is a high likelihood of students opting for international universities that are perceived to offer quality and prestigious degrees.

by Dr. Judith Nguli

this blog first appeared on

Share on:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin