We identify the impact of the 2003 Kenyan Free Primary Education (FPE) programme on gender imbalances in the number of students graduating from primary school and achievement on the primary school exit examination. Our identiﬁcation strategy exploits temporal and spatial variations in the pre-programme dropout rates between districts in a difference-in-differences strategy. We ﬁnd that the programme boosted primary school completion rates of both boys and girls, but had a larger effect for boys, thereby increasing the gender gap in graduation. Additionally, the programme led to a widening of the achievement gap in government schools. Overall, FPE increased educational access, but did not close gender gaps, suggesting that complementary programmes that speciﬁcally target girls may be necessary to reduce these gaps.
The Kenyan Education Minister Prof. Sam Ongeri is not among the big fish in Kenyan politics. Neither are his assistant and the Ministry’s permanent secretary. Firing them and making them face the law will not have any awful political consequences for the president and his non-existent party. But it will serve Kenya. I think that this is a wonderful opportunity for the president to demonstrate that there are sacred programs that should never be compromised with – like the free primary education program, or healthcare.
Several months ago I thought that the president and his premier would punish those who stole government maize for re-export even as Kenyans starved to death. No one has been punished yet. Word on the street is that bigwigs in the Agriculture Ministry and perhaps even the premier’s son were deeply involved, plus a number of MPs. Now almost SHS 200 million has disappeared from the Ministry of Education. This is money that was intended to finance free primary education. Kibaki cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this.
In other news, the UN wants Guinean dictator Capt. Moussa Camara (and his henchmen) to be tried for crimes against humanity following the massacre of over 150 protestors in late September. Mr. Camara is currently recovering in a Moroccan hospital following a botched assassination attempt. The attempt on his life is believed to be a result of infighting within the junta over who should take responsibility for the September massacre.
Elsewhere, the president of Nigeria continues to rule in absentia. President Umaru Yar’Adua has been ailing in a Saudi hospital for a while now, prompting calls for his resignation. Nigerian politics aside, I echo these same calls. Nigeria is the undisputed leading country in West Africa. The chaos in Guinea and to a lesser extent in Guinea-Bissau and the Ivory Coast require mediation and regional engagement. Nigeria can provide leadership on this front, plus it can send troops (to Guinea especially) to keep the peace. The region needs Nigerian leadership (yes, I know I just said that). And that means having a strong and engaged Nigerian president.