My field research for Ashinaga Proposal in my country, Kenya

By Alex Waggz
2015 Ashinaga Scholar, Clark University

October 15, 2018 — Over this summer, I was fortunate to be awarded the opportunity to conduct a field research for my Ashinaga Proposal in Kenya. My time in Kenya was mostly spent conducting interviews and administering questionnaires to students, teachers, parents, government officials in education sector as well as community organizations with interest in education sector. My research revealed the reality of the issue I intend to resolve. Drawing from the data collected, the major challenge inhibiting higher education achievement in Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) was resource deprivation. Majority of the schools I conducted my study in, are highly under-resourced with diminished academic facilities. For example, most schools lacked proper and modern science labs, inadequate learning material such as text books as well as inadequate teaching staff. The resource issue was not just witnessed from the government perspective, but also a household one. Majority of students in the schools came from economically-deprived households, for instance, the average monthly income of a family of five was $200. Therefore, owing to the fact that a substantial share of funding to secondary schools is contributed by parents, schools are not able to meet all their needs.

I was also able to partially understand how math and science inhibit KCSE performance. My sample schools reported very low mean scores in math and science compared to other disciplines, such as languages and humanities. Amongst math and science, the data collected indicated better performance in Biology and Chemistry while Math and Physics exhibited lowest mean scores. I was, for instance, able to understand that low performance in math and Physics was caused by an equally low attitude towards the subjects probably due to; inadequate teaching resources, including understaffing. In addition, I also understood is that most students develop negative attitude towards math and science because their career path do not majorly focus on math and science. Moreover, I learnt that math and science affect students’ KSCE performance because they are compulsory subjects in most schools meaning that, despite low scores, they count towards a student overall KCSE performance, this means that the lower the score of these subjects, the lower the average score in KCSE. This were not the only factors that inhibit better performance in math and science, there are other external forces such as the examination board policies and guidelines on grading.

Finally, I was able to forge partnership with individuals and education officials who expressed interest in working with me to see a full realization of my project. These include the Ministry of Education in Kenya, count education officials as well as community leaders. The greatest experience was meeting George Njoroge the Liaison Officer to the office of the Cabinet Secretary of Education, Science and Technology of the Republic of Kenya. During our interaction, Mr. Njoroge pledged to accord any assistance needed in my research as well as in implementation of the project. Currently, the journey to seeing full realization of my Ashinaga project seems challenging, however, the overwhelming support I have received offers adequate assurance that I will get there. I’m thankful to everyone who participated directly or indirectly in supporting and ensuring an incredible research experience. I would like to specially thank Ashinaga for providing this opportunity to me.