The contributions of affirmative strategies to widening access to universities for students from Kenya’s Asal regions
Obonyo, Mark Makori
MetadataShow full item record
This study explored the contributions of affirmative action as an institutional intervention to widen access for students from Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) regions to universities in Kenya. The study also investigated interventions that can widen access and participation of students from ASAL regions. Currently, at the international level, the acknowledgement of higher education as critical to the development of societies has encouraged countries to design policies that widen access and participation of students from all social groups in higher education. While these policies have been achieved in the context of developed countries, the opposite is true in developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, demand for higher education has not been met, with enrolments in higher education averaging 5% of the eligible cohort. In Kenya, AA has been used as an institutional intervention to increase the enrolment of students from ASAL regions to public universities. This study was designed to explore the contributions of affirmative action as a strategy of widening participation of students from these regions to universities. The study design employed a descriptive cross-section survey research design; exploratory in orientation. Both qualitative and quantitative data were generated to address the study objectives. Convenience and stratified techniques were used to sample students. Out of a target of 550 undergraduate students at the three universities from ASAL regions based in the 8 arid districts of Kenya, convenience sampling was used to select 150 (27%) students of which 131(24%) responded. Based on the respondents from the convenience sample, a stratified sample was selected for three FGDs comprising 6-10 (12-20%) members at each of the selected universities. Purposive sampling was used to select one private and two public universities, university administrators, heads of agencies (HELB and CHE), staff in charge of student welfare issues, lecturers from ASAL regions and policy-makers/practitioners. Methods used to collect data were: self-administered questionnaires, open-ended interviews, documentary analysis and focus group discussions. Self-administered questionnaires were given to students while open-ended interviews were administered to university administrators, lecturers from ASAL regions, heads of agencies and policy-makers/practitioners. Documentary analysis was done on KCSE results and university student admission records. Focus group discussions were conducted to obtain in-depth data from selected students at the selected universities. Simple descriptive analysis was used to analyse and report data. Reporting of qualitative data was in verbatim while quantitative data was presented using basic descriptive statistics in tabular form. The research findings indicate that a range of between 0.2% and 0.8% students from ASAL regions at the universities benefited from the AA. The study established that the admission trends through AA were below the set ceiling of 10%. To increase access to universities, the study recommended the need to lower the existing affirmative cut-off point for university admission, provide financial assistance on affirmative basis and provision of adequate facilities at basic education level.