The Potential of Open Distance and E-L in Broadening Female Students Access to Universities in Kenya: A Study of Kenyatta University’s Marsabit Centre
Kyutha, Juliet Ann
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In Kenya, female students and especially those from Arid and Semi-Arid and marginal areas are underrepresented at various educational levels, particularly at University Level. The interventions to widen access and participation in Kenya for female students have been instituted centrally using affirmative action which led to increase in female access and participation but has also led to socio-economic and regional inequality. This is because it has given advantage to female students from prestigious schools, high socio-economic, urban and metropolitan areas at expense of those from Arid and Semi-Arid areas and the marginalized. This called for a change in mode of delivery in higher education, in order to bring the desired social change of attaining gender and regional equality in educational access. In an attempt to increase access and participation for female students from Arid and Semi-Arid and marginal areas, Kenyatta University with Ford Foundation and Kenya Education Network Trust started an Open Distance and e-Learning Centre at Marsabit, hosted by Moi Girls Marsabit in 2008. Since the programme was launched, studies have not been conducted to determine its feasibility and the potential it has as a strategy to increase access of female students from Arid and Semi-Arid areas to university in Kenya. This study was specifically focusing on finding out how Open Distance and e-Learning is designed and implemented in a rural and remote area, the potentials it has as a mode of delivering higher education and increasing female students from marginal areas to higher education. The study design employed a case study. Majorly qualitative data was generated and also quantitative data to address the study objectives. Purposive sampling was used for the study.. Self-administered questionnaires were given to all the students enrolled at the centre, structured interviews were conducted on initiators of the project, project coordinators at Marsabit and Kenyatta University, Executive Director of Kenya Education Network Trust, Lecturers who interacted with the students, and Focus Group Discussions were conducted for a few selected students and community leaders. The data was mainly analysed through coding and categorization and entailed deep descriptions using words to represent information as obtained from respondents. Quantitative data analysis entailed basic descriptive statistics which were represented in tables and percentages. The data obtained showed that when well designed and fully sponsored Open Distance and e-Learning is more suitable approach to increasing access to female students to university from marginal areas. The Open Distance and e-Learning initiative is acceptable by both students and the community since the women can learn within their cultural setting. The study also showed that the implementation was not proper. The students lacked variety of reading materials, they needed more face- to- face interaction with lecturers, they needed a wider variety of courses to be offered since only Bachelor of Education (Arts) courses were offered. In terms of support, a broader financial support system was needed for them to complete their courses. There is a need for research to be conducted to establish the most promising package of interventions to be implemented to ensure greater access, high enrolment and completion rates of enrolled students.