Kenya . . . A Microcosm of Africa
Kenya is one of 54 independent countries on the African continent. With over 40 million people, it’s the 33rd largest country by population. Located in East Africa, Kenya is a beautiful and diverse country from the pristine beaches along the Indian Ocean coastal strip, to the temperate central highlands bisected by The Great Rift Valley, to the fertile plateau in the west, to the savannah of the Masai Mara, to the isolated dry desert of the far north. The people are equally diverse having different tribal traditions and culture. Generally, all Kenyans are full of life, hospitality and a love for their country!
Official Name: Republic of Kenya
Independence: Dec. 12, 1963, after being a United Kingdom colony since 1920. Colonialism dates back to the late 1880s.
Capital City: Nairobi
Location: Eastern Africa, divided by the equator, bordering the Indian Ocean and Somalia on the east; South Sudan and Ethiopia to the north; Uganda to the west; Tanzania to the south.
Size: 219,788 square miles (569,250 square kilometers). Roughly twice the size of Nevada.
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 meters. Highest point: Mount Kenya 5,199 m (17,057 feet).
Population: 41,070,934 (July 2011 est.)
Ethnic Groups (tribes): Kikuyu 22%, Luhya 14%, Luo 13%, Kalenjin 12%, Kamba 11%, Kisii 6%, Meru 6%, other African 15%, non-African (Asian, European, and Arab) 1%.
Language: English (official), Kiswahili (official), numerous indigenous languages
Religions: Protestant 45%, Roman Catholic 33%, Muslim 10%, indigenous beliefs 10%, other 2%
note: a large majority of Kenyans are Christian, but estimates for the percentage of the population that adheres to Islam or indigenous beliefs vary widely
*Facts taken from CIA World Factbook
The school year runs from January to late November. There are 3 school terms. Term 1, January – March. Term 2, May – July. Term 3 September – November. Between each term, students and teachers have a “holiday”, school break of usually around 3 weeks. The long holiday is in December when most schools have a 5 week break.
Many Kenyans place a high value on education, which is seen as the key to personal and communal success. Villagers often contribute funds through a self-help system known as Harambee (in Kiswahili meaning, "Let us pull together.") to send youth to a university.
The education system is an 8-4-4 system with 8 years of primary education, 4 years of secondary education and 4 years of university. Nursery class and Pre-Primary (Kindergarten) are considered Early Childhood Development (ECD) and not mandatory for entry into Class 1. The Kenyan university system is 4 years for a Bachelor’s Degree. Many other post-secondary options exist for those who do not qualify or can’t afford university. College (Certificates and Associates degrees) is often 2-3 years, while Teacher’s Training College (for teaching primary school) is 2 years.
Education in Kenya is fairly expensive and is a big strain for most families, the majority of whom live below the universal poverty line of U.S. $1 a day. The education system in Kenya is also burdened by lack of adequate facilities and teachers. Of the approximately 600,000 pupils who take the national grade eight exams, a little more than half get into secondary schools due to a facilities shortage. Less than 60,000 go on to attend universities or colleges, mainly due to lack of facilities and the cost of education.
*information from Compassion International
Prayer in School
Morning prayers in public schools are said in areas of the country that are largely Christian. All children participate in the assembly, but are not punished if they remain silent during prayers.
Kenya became independent from Great Britain on Dec. 12, 1963, and the next year joined the British Commonwealth. Jomo Kenyatta, a member of the large Kikuyu ethnic group, became Kenya's first president. Kenyatta ruled as President until his death in 1978. Daniel Moi took over as Kenya’s 2nd president in a constitutional succession. The country was a one-party state until 1992 when it finally became a multi-party democracy.
Elections were held in 1992 and 1997 with large opposition parties having a strong run at the presidency, but violence and fraud kept Moi in power. After his retirement in 2002, Moi willingly handed over the presidency to the winning candidate Mwai Kibaki. During the 2007 election, there were even stronger, and more determined, opponents. Kibaki again came out the victor but strong accusations of vote rigging came from opponent Raila Odinga. The contested election spurred 2 months of extreme ethnic violence and civil unrest which resulted in 1,500 deaths and hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes. In August 2010, Kenyans voted overwhelmingly to adopt a new constitution in a national referendum. The new constitution introduced additional checks and balances on executive powers and provided for significant devolution of power and resources to the 47 newly created counties. The first presidential election under the new constitution, occurred on 4 March 2013. Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of founding president Jomo Kenyatta, won the elections by a close margin and was sworn into office on 9 April 2013.