More Women Enrol In Literacy Programmes Than Men

By Brian Okinda

In January 2004, the late Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge, then aged 84 years, joined two of his grandchildren as a new pupil at Kapkenduiywa Primary School in Eldoret.

Today, the Guinness Book of World Records lists him as the oldest person to ever enrol in elementary school.

This however was not the achievement Mr Maruge was seeking when he donned the sky blue short sleeve shirt and the navy blue shorts and trudged to school.


That he considered sharing a classroom with youngsters his grandchildren’s age showed the world that the value of education can never be underestimated.

UNMIL Photo/Christophe Herwig - Ganta, Liberia, July 30, 2008 :  The Ganta Concerned Women’s Group has organized a pilot project to teach women in Tonglewin village how to read and do basic mathematics.  Liberia’s electricity system was destroyed in the war, and power has not yet been restored. Classes are conducted in semi-darkness twice a week.
UNMIL Photo/Christophe Herwig 

He demonstrated that it is never too late to go back to class, underscoring the importance of education to all, regardless of age.

Even after his death in 2009, Mr Maruge continues to inspire many adults who for one reason or another did not attend school in their younger years.

One such person is 45-year-old Theresia Nganda.


For nearly 20 years, Ms Nganda lived as a housewife after quitting her studies just after she joined high school in the mid-80s.

The mother of five and a grandmother of nine says the need to fend for her family especially after her husband passed away motivated her to go back to school and in 2014, she enrolled at Wautu Adult and Continuing Education Centre, Ilima ward, Makueni County.

She will now sit for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education in 2018. She exudes confidence that she will pass.


On November 17, 1965, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) declared September 8 the International Literacy Day (ILD), with the aim of highlighting the importance of education and literacy to individuals, communities and societies.

 Over 760 million adults worldwide cannot read or write and are considered functionally illiterate, having only basic or sub-basic literacy levels in their native languages.

Unesco’s Institute for Statistics (UIS) estimates that in Kenya 21,590,096 people, which is roughly 77.99 per cent of adult population aged 15 years and above, are able to read and write, whereas about 6,092,601 adults are illiterate.


According to a report released in late June 2017 by the Institute of Economic Affairs, the country’s overall enrolment in adult education has continued to exhibit a declining trend since 2014, with only 271,769 adult students enrolled in 2016, reflecting a decline of 11.3 per cent from 2015.

The report however specifies that more female learners are registered, compared to their male counterparts and even perform better.

Anastacia Mutie, the head teacher of Wautu Adult and Continuing Education Centre, says many adults find it hard to go back to school due to lack of motivation.

“They feel they have to earn a living and can’t imagine attending lessons.

 “There is need to enlighten them on the importance of education,” Ms Mutie says.


Nairobi and Meru counties dominate in adult education enrolment in the country, with Taita-Taveta County having the least number of adult learners.

Most of these over-age pupils congregate for learning during the latter part of the day, usually in the afternoon, after completing their daily chores.

So what troubles the adult literacy and education programme in the country?

The Directorate of Adult Education mentions shortage of staff and personnel, low funding, lack of facilities and proper infrastructure, which leads to competition for the few available facilities, and poor remuneration.


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