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Kenya's Education System, 1920-1939

Education in Kenya during its colonization was racially stratified, with varying curricula and facilities for Europeans, Asians and Africans. Sentiment in the colony was strongly in favor of such segregation. For example, Richard Frost stated in Race Against Time that Europeans in Kenya were "almost unanimously opposed to any infiltration of non-Europeans into European schools" (1978). Thus, up until Kenya gained its independence in 1963 and subsequently discarded the British system in the 1980s, educational opportunities for students in Kenya was determined almost entirely by race (KenyaWeb, 2002).

Martin Carnoy (1974) and Donald Schilling (1984) have argued that the education system as applied to black Kenyans was really a means to control Africans and inculcate within them "a sense of inferiority" that would keep them permanently in a secondary position (Natsoulas, 1998). Christian missionaries established the first formal schooling program for native Kenyans. In addition, by 1924, ninety percent of all schools in tropical Africa were mission schools (Knighton, 2002). Thus, one of the primary goals of schools for Africans in Kenya had the stated goal of producing "good Christians" (Natsoulas, 1998). A second primary goal of the educational policy applied to native Kenyans was, at least up until the 1930s when the Kikuyu tribe began to push for change, to create a semi-literate skills-based labor pool that would be best prepared for working in "peasant-based African societies" (Natsoulas, 1998).

The colonial government also tied financial assistance to the missionary schools to the requirement that the schools provide Africans only with agricultural skills training, hygiene classes, and limited reading and writing instruction (See Obyerodhyambo, 2002; Natsoulas, 1998). Africans were not provided with any university preparatory secondary schools. Rather, the government worried that such education would engender polit...

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Kenya's Education System, 1920-1939. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 13:14, April 21, 2019, from