Gender disparities in access to University education in Kenya
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University education is very important in the development process of any country since it results to a cadre of highly qualified human resource equipped with production skills, vision, attitudes and values necessary for initiating and advancing economic development. Article 26.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that `everyone has a right to higher education' and that `higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.' The government of Kenya is a signatory to this declaration and hence has to ensure equal accessibility to higher education. The purpose of this study was to examine gender disparities in access to various undergraduate programmes from 1998/99 to 2001/02 academic years. The study investigated gender disparities in admission to undergraduate degree programmes in Kenyan public and private universities. The researcher investigated factors that led to such disparities with a view of suggesting possible policy intervention strategies to gender disparities in access to university education. The basic significance of the study was to give information on admission by gender to university education to educators and policy makers and hence use it as a basis for policy formulation to address gender imbalances. Literature review was done on enrolment patterns by gender and factors affecting access to education. The study population covered were undergraduate students admitted in 1998/99 to 2001/2002 academic years in six public and four chartered private universities in Kenya. Also included were senior academic staff members as well as JAB and CHE officials. Data were collected by means of document analysis from published and unpublished official university documents as well as documents from CHE and JAB. Data on factors leading to gender disparities were collected from sampled out senior academic staff members and secretaries to CHE and JAB by means of interview schedules. Thirteen Deans of faculties from public universities and four Dean of faculties from private universities were interviewed. Deans of faculties were sampled out using proportionate random sampling and simple balloting. Data was collected by the researcher from the field and analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. Data on enrolments were presented in the form of graphs, tables and percentages. Information gathered from interviews was thematically analyzed and presented in narrative form. This enabled the researcher draw up summary, conclusions and recommendations of the study. The study found out that female representation in public universities was lower than in private universities. Furthermore, it was revealed that female representation in Science and Technology courses was below 40% in both public and private universities. The gap by gender in admission was almost constant and parallel in the years under study. The number of females admitted to public universities was at 35% and only in the academic year 1999/00 did it increase by 1%. Percentage female admission in Kenyan public universities was below 40% in all universities except Kenyatta University, which admitted over 45% female students in the academic years under study. On the other hand, female representation in private universities was high with Daystar having the highest of 60% and Catholic University of East Africa (CUEA) scored the lowest with 48% admission of female students. Females were mainly enrolled in Education, Art, Home Economics, Nursing and Social Sciences. School based factors, Socio economic and socio cultural factors were cited among the major causes of gender differences in university education. Based on the research findings it was recommended that the problem of under representation of female students must be tackled right from the primary and secondary levels of education. Sensitizing the society on the importance of female education must be done. The study further recommends that teaching and learning at the primary and secondary levels should be improved especially in sciences, mathematics and technical subjects especially for female students. To achieve equitable access by gender to university education, the Kenyan government must commit the necessary resources and design policies that will open school doors to the disadvantaged. There is need to strengthen national institutions that conduct education policy analysis and research in order to face challenges of high population growth and the need to increase physical facilities and teachers while at the same time improving quality.