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Shock of illiterate KCPE pupils

Four out of 100 children in Standard Eight cannot read a Standard Two Kiswahili or English story, a study has revealed.

The study by Uwezo, a programme of Twaweza, titled Are our Children Learning? Literacy and Numeracy in Kenya, indicates that the national literacy and numeracy abilities among children remain low.

It shows that while children in Standard Three and higher classes should be able to read basic English and Kiswahili and do simple mathematics, very few can do so.

It also indicates that learning outcomes are low nationally, with only three out of 10 pupils in Standard Three being able to do Standard Two work. The programme tested more than 135,000 children aged six to 16 in 2013.

About four out of 10 Standard Three pupils can read a Standard Two Kiswahili story while in the same class, two out of 10 cannot read a Kiswahili word.

In English, three out of 10 Standard Three pupils can read a Standard Two English story while two out of 10 pupils in the same class cannot read an English word.

It also indicates that three out of 10 Standard Three children can solve a Standard Two division problem while in the same class, one in 10 children cannot recognise numbers between 11 and 99.


By the time children reach Standard Eight, one in 10 cannot solve Standard Two division.

At 58 per cent, Nyeri County has the highest number of Standard Three pupils who can read and understand a Standard Two-level story in English and Kiswahili, and do division at the same level.

It is followed by Kajiado (54 per cent), Nairobi (52 per cent), Kiambu (44 per cent) and Kirinyaga (42 per cent).

Counties at the bottom are Mandera (10 per cent), Samburu (13 per cent), Turkana (14 per cent) Busia (17 per cent) and Tana River (18 per cent).

The report says although Nyeri is the strongest county in learning outcomes, its performance is still poor.

A Standard Three pupil in Nyeri is six times more likely to do Standard Two work than a child in Mandera.

Nyeri is the top county for English reading and division as six out of 10 Standard Three pupils can read and the same number do division at the Standard Two level.


The top county for Kiswahili reading is Kajiado, where six out of 10 Standard Three pupils are able to read at Standard Two level.

In Nairobi, 96 per cent of schools provide clean drinking water to pupils while 95 per cent of girls in Isiolo are given sanitary towels.

Isiolo has the highest proportion of schools providing training for special needs teachers, but this is still generally low at 19 per cent.

Speaking during the launch of the report at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s adviser on Education, Kilemi Mwiria, asked parents to develop interest in what their children learn instead of blaming teachers and the government.

“The same applies to students who have to show commitment in their studies,” Dr Mwiria said.

The report says almost all schools assessed in Mombasa provide in-service training for Standard Two  teachers.

He also proposed that colleges and universities should go for bright students to train as teachers.