Being young, Kenyan and gendered: the outcomes of schooling and transitions to adulthood in poor urban and rural settings
Chege, Fatuma N.
Wainaina, Paul K.
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This paper which is derived from findings of the Education, Youth, Gender and Citizenship (YGC) project1 foregrounds the experiences and outcomes of schooling as constructed through the voices of young female and male Kenyan youth aged between 18 and 25 years who lived in conditions of relative material poverty in one of the urban communities of the study2. Using qualitative data mainly from interviews, the paper demonstrates how young men and women from impoverished families and communities constructed the outcomes of their schooling, demonstrating the realities of how they negotiated their daily lives and experiences that were build upon some broken promise from a formal education that had failed to deliver them –and their families- out of the cycle of poverty. The expressed need to transform their lives by break out of the cycle of poverty while at the same retaining a sense of belonging to their families and local communities - ‘home and family’ – formed the dominant discourse in the voices of the young women and men –most of who seemed eager to project and be heard. The study findings capture articulations of the value attached to formal education as a communal and individual investment even when the experience of schooling was itself portrayed as a failure in delivering the economic expectations of this young generation of hopeful Kenyan women and men. The explicit difference between young people’s educational aspirations and expectations of schooling vis-àvis the realities of its outcomes as experienced in their daily lives provided the young people a point of departure in interrogating other non-economic benefits of schooling – which in one way or another enhanced their well-being and made them different from the non-schooled peers. Findings demonstrated that the level of schooling –primary and secondary- influenced the articulation of non-economic (social and human development) outcomes of schooling. Gender also seemed to influenced the manner in which the social and human development outcomes of schooling were played out among the youth with the young men presenting themselves as community focused in terms of seeking ways to transforming their environments while the young women were keen in changing their own lives and of their offspring. Thus, the route for escaping poverty was constructed differently between the women and the men while articulation of the means of escape was considerably more concretised among the youth with secondary education. It is in this context that this paper interrogates the implications of different levels of schooling among young Kenyan women and men who live in poor urban settlements.