Why Coast performs poorly in national exams

kids on floor

The single most effective way of improving the quality of a person’s life is providing and taking quality education. Quality education provides a strong foundation for everyone and full participation and access to quality education is a fundamental obligation every nation has in uplifting the quality of life of a people.

The 2nd Decade of Education for Africa 2006-2015 Plan of Action has the vision of the African Union of an integrated peaceful prosperous Africa driven by its own people to take rightful place in the global community and the economy. This vision and Kenya’s Vision 2030 places education as the key major means by which Africa’s human resource would be prepared.

Most Counties in the Coast Province entered the era of devolution with severe education challenges at every level. Increase of access against inadequate quality facilities and resources, low transition and retention rates, ignorance, poverty and misplaced priorities are among the prevailing challenges facing the education sector in the Coast.  

Education is critical to the coastal counties if they would have to match the performance in development of other counties in the country. It is the only important means we have at our disposal to impart skills, knowledge and attitudes. It is the basis of developing innovation, science and technology in order to harness our resources, industries and participation in the global knowledge economy and for our Counties to take their rightful place in sharing the national cake.

Poor Infrastructure

A first evaluation of the performance of the Coast province between 2002 -2009 reveals that most of the goals of education namely equity and access to basic education, quality and relevance and effectiveness of education, complimentary learning modalities and capacity building have not been achieved. Notably the infrastructure is poor and the number of schools very low to match the demand of free day secondary school and the universal primary education that was introduced in 2008 and 2004 respectively. Implementation of the Education infrastructure development has been mainly through funds drive enshrined in the Harambee system, the sources of which depended on the economic capacity of a region. This already created a differential pace of school infrastructural development where coast province lagged behind since independence.


In the last decade the Constituency Development Fund commonly known as CDF was introduced to alleviate some of the sector development challenges. This was placed under the custodian of political leadership who converted this fund to image building opportunity for sustaining their political leadership as most of the people in the province were not aware of how the fund was managed. In fact to many, CDF was kind of a good gesture from the local Member of Parliament.  This has been used to show the electorate the development projects undertaken by their leaders albeit the fact that it was the taxpayers’ money and not from the political leader’s initiative and creativity.

The education sector benefited from these funds but one key factor which determined the effective utility of the funds was prudent planning and knowledge of the Education sector. One emerging challenge resulting in the CDF education projects was the mismatch of the building of schools and number of qualified teachers to work in the schools. There was limited or even lack of consultation and advice from education planners and developers. Consequently extra schools were built amidst a big deficit of qualified teaching force and deficiency of learning materials. This one factor has led to the desperate employment of form four graduates even at secondary schools when they themselves don’t have a minimum requirement for graduate training. This state of affairs has still persisted and one would hope that the devolved governments in the Coast province would put as priority the involvement of experts in education as they undertake to improve the performance of the education sector in their counties.

Challenges at coast

In an effort to increase access,  major challenges have been congested classrooms, inadequate learning material, lack of individual attention, and increased streams against low numbers of qualified staff. A consequence of this is poor curriculum implementation and non-effective coverage of content in the province. In a region like the coast province which was ill-prepared for this kind of rapid growth, systematic teaching structures and order in the schools broke down and teaching has characteristically moved towards coaching for examination and less of imparting knowledge and soft skills for academic survival.

Coast region, where leadership has had less focus on developing education is characterized by perpetual low performance and non-participation in the education sector. It took exactly 50 years after independence for the region to have higher education institutions by charters given to two universities in January 2013. All the six counties of the region have posted low performance most of them leading from behind both at KCPE and KCSE national examinations.

School attendance

One significant factor that has affected performance in Kilifi and other counties in Coast region is inconsistent school attendance. This has gone to the extent that some schools do not allow those who, most of the time are absent, to register for the national examinations for fear of lowering standards of performance which are already low. This has the adverse effect of having children aging beyond the average schooling age in comparison to other regions. Even with these problems the tragedy is that children who score good marks are not able to proceed with their secondary or college education.

The staffing profiles in most schools in the coast province are wanting. It is noted particularly at high school, that many schools in the province have few trained teachers and a majority of untrained teachers. This is the worst hit area with some schools employing even grade C holders with the hopes of producing A grades from this calibre of teachers. The average performance in the province stands at 5-6 points which is equivalent to an aggregate grade of C-. This means that majority of the high school graduates in the province cannot even pursue Diploma courses which require a mean grade of a C.  Now they can, as this has nationally been lowered to a C- .

Kiswahili Vs English

 A quick analysis of the results of Kilfi County and the other counties in the Coast indicates the need to improve the performance in all subjects. Kiswahili subject stands as the strongest determinant of the final grade a candidate can score whereas English comprehension impacts performance in subjects taught in English. Many teachers and schools in the coast province are torn in between emphasizing on English usage and less of Kiswahili, suffering the risk of losing the proficiency of Kiswahili, which children in the region can understand well. The analysis shows that students in Coast region show better comprehension of Kiswahili than English, but manage English grammar better than Kiswahili grammar because of the illusion of being native speakers.

Impact of devolution through the Basic Education Act 2013 and the establishment of the National and County Education Boards have addressed the issues of performance and participation in the Coast region at a more closer and realistic range and improved performance has been observed in Kilifi and in the region at large. The problem of transition still remains a nightmare which is contributed majorly by the high poverty index and lack of effective sponsorship.  Efforts and interventions like the one undertaken by Wings to fly program, the Secondary School scholarship under the ministry of Education and Finance through the childrens’ department will go a long way in changing the landscape of education participation by citizens of this region and should be emulated by other organisations.

In fact Ksh. 53 million would pay the fees for 1000 children admitted to join form one in national schools since the statutory fees charged at this level as per government regulations is a maximum of Ksh. 53,000/- per student. The county bursary schemes should be freed from political intentions and influence for them to be effective.

Prof. Gabriel Katana is the CEC member for education in Kilifi county. He is an Educator, and a Professor of Physics

To respond to his article write to mwambolero@gmail.com

1 Comment on "Why Coast performs poorly in national exams"

  1. So sad. Especially reading this from an academician and prospective leader for our devolved governments.
    In a nutshell, let me pin point one fact which may be controversial but very true. In one leaders meeting for the county ( used to be called DSG) the DC then, on matters of education commented thus”people here were still in the KAYAs when other regions were busy building educational infrastructures. Hence there is need to strongly help them out by all means available’. He was commenting on the need of school feeding programmes to bring children to school as well as maintain them.
    I sheared this sentiment to an old academician who went through Makerere during the colonial era and rubbished it as nonsense.
    My thought is, we people i coast region are under a curse. Why? we rejected the christian missionaries and embraced our traditions and Islam.In some areas of Coast, it is believed that missionaries were killed. our upcountry brothers embraced the missionaries, learned from them before seeking for independence.
    Up to this time we in coast are still celebrating Mekatilili and the Kaya elders.
    Repentance is the only thing remaining to change the cycle. were loosing all the inheritance we have have coastal people. Poverty causing us to sell our land while greed taking up everything. No future for the unlearned masses.

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