Historical records not only from the travels of Johann Ludwig Krapf and Johannes Rebmann reveal that Kenyans had access to education as far back as 1728 with a Swahili manuscript Utendi wa Tambuka (Book of Heraclius) attesting to the fact. The CMS missionaries interacted with locals in the coastal town of Mombasa and set up one of the earliest mission schools in the country at Rabai in 1846. Before independence elementary education was based on the colonial system of education. In 1967, Kenya, with Uganda and Tanzania, formed the East African Community. The three countries adopted a single system of education, the 7-4-2-3, which consisted of 7 years of primary education, 4 years of secondary education, 2 years of high school and 3–5 years of university education.
With the collapse of the East African community in 1977, Kenya continued with the same system of education until 1985 when the 8-4-4 system was introduced, which adopted 8 years of primary education, 4 years of secondary education and 4 years of university education.
Before joining primary school, children aged between three and six are required to attend pre-primary for one or two years.
Primary education is universal, free and compulsory and usually caters for children ages 6 to 14. A major goal of primary school education is to develop self-expression, self-discipline and self-reliance, while at the same time providing a rounded education experience.
Secondary education begins around the age of fourteen and lasts for four years. Secondary school education especially in public school is subsidized by the government, with the government paying tuition fee for students attending public secondary school.
The roots of higher education in Kenya date only from 1956 with the founding of Nairobi’s Royal Technical College, a school that would in 1970 become the country’s first university – The University of Nairobi.
Today the story has considerably more depth. Kenya has:
- 52 public, private and constituent university college institutions.
- A total student population of 251,000, up from 81,000 in 2003.
- A one-year increase of 20% in newly enrolled students for the 2012-13 academic session.
- 79,000 students in 40 technical and vocational institutions, up from 34,000 in 2003.
- The top universities in East Africa in the area of ICT (Information and Communication Technology), according to a CPS International survey.
Recent legislative changes to university education
In September Margaret Kamar, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, signed The Universities Bill 2012, which seek to introduce radical changes to higher education such as:
- Abolishing the decades-old Commission for Higher Education (CHE), which has hitherto regulated the sector, and replacing it with the Commission for University Education (CUE).
- The CUE would advise government on university education policy, undertake accreditation inspections, monitor and evaluate the state of university education and ensure compliance with set standards.
- Additional new bodies running the educator sector would include the Universities Funding Board, to coordinate financing of universities; the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service, to handle admissions to public universities and colleges; and the Technical and Vocational Education (TVET) Funding Board, to handle funding of the TVET sector – a role previously left in the hands of individual, middle-level colleges.
In January 2013, the bill was signed into law, bringing public universities, which were previously governed by specific acts of parliament, under the same law as private institutions.
Kenyan authorities, in partnership with the EAC (East African Community), are also promoting more student mobility. To that end, in November 2012, education ministers from Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda met in the Rwandan capital Kigali, and after three years of negotiations, approved the Inter University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) Bill 2012.
Following the enactment of the Universities Act No. 42 of 2012, these institutions individual Acts were repealed. This signified their award of Charters on 1st March 2013:
- University of Nairobi (UoN) – 2013
- Moi University (MU) – 2013
- Kenyatta University (KU) – 2013
- Egerton University (EU) – 2013
- Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) 2013
- Maseno University (MSU) – 2013
- Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) – 2013
University Constituent Colleges were previously established by Legal Orders under their respective mother University Acts. This was replaced after the institutions met the set accreditation standards and guidelines set by the Commission which culminated to their Charter award to be fully-fledged public universities. These institutions are:
- Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DKUT) – 2012
- Chuka University (CU) – 2013
- Technical University of Kenya (TUK) – 2013
- Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) – 2013
- Pwani University (PU) – 2013
- Kisii University (EU) – 2013
- University of Eldoret – 2013
- Maasai Mara University – 2013
- Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology – 2013
- Laikipia University – 2013
- South Eastern Kenya University – 2013
- Meru University of Science and Technology – 2013
- Multimedia University of Kenya – 2013
- University of Kabianga – 2013
- Karatina University – 2013
Public University Constituent Colleges
These were established by a Legal Order under the then Act of the University shown in bracket against each, after requisite verification of academic resources by the Commission for University Education. These are:
- Murang’a University College (JKUAT) – 2011
- Machakos University College (UoN) – 2011
- The Kenya Cooperative University College (JKUAT) – 2011
- Embu University College (UoN) – 2011
- Kirinyaga University College (KU) – 2011
- Rongo University College (MU) – 2011
- Kibabii University College (MMUST) – 2011
- Garissa University College (EU) – 2011
- Taita Taveta University College (JKUAT) – 2011
Public University Campuses
- Kenya Science University Campus (UoN)
- Kitui University Campus (KU)
- Ruiru Campus (KU)
Chartered Private Universities
These are universities that have been fully accredited:
- University of Eastern Africa, Baraton – 1991
- Catholic University of Eastern Africa – 1992
- Scott Theological College – 1992
- Daystar University – 1994
- United States International University – 1999
- Africa Nazarene University – 2002
- Kenya Methodist University – 2006
- St. Paul’s University – 2007
- Pan Africa Christian University – 2008
- Strathmore University – 2008
- Kabarak University – 2008
- Mount Kenya University – 2011
- Africa International University – 2011
- Kenya Highlands Evangelical University – 2011
- Great Lakes University of Kisumu (GLUK) – 2012
- KCA University, 2013
- Adventist University of Africa, 2013
Private University Colleges
Catholic University of Eastern Africa has the following constituent Colleges:
- Hekima University College (CUEA)
- Tangaza University College (CUEA)
- Marist International University College (CUEA)
- Regina Pacis University College (CUEA)
- Uzima University College (CUEA)
Universities with Letter of Interim Authority (LIA)
The following universities are operating with Letters of Interim Authority (LIA), while receiving guidance and direction from the Commission for University Education in order to prepare them for the award of Charter:
- Kiriri Women’s University of Science and Technology – 2002
- Aga Khan University – 2002
- Gretsa University – 2006
- KCA University of East Africa – 2007
- Presbyterian University of East Africa – 2008
- Adventist University – 2009
- Inoorero University – 2009
- The East African University – 2009
- GENCO University – 2010
- Management University of Africa – 2011
- Riara University – 2012
- Pioneer International University – 2012
Registered Private Universities
- Nairobi International School of Theology
- East Africa School of Theology