Factors Contributing to the Growth of Early Childhood Education in Kenya

By Anthony M. Wanjohi:

Kenya has a long tradition of early childhood education. The first early childhood development centres (pre-schools) were started in the 1940s by and for the exclusive use of the European and Asian communities. In 1950, during Mau Mau struggle for independence, the pre-school education programme was set in emergency villages in Central Province. After independence, pre-school education continued to develop countrywide owing to the social-economic development that the country witnessed (Kipkorir & Njenga, 1993). Today, Kenya has witnessed tremendous development in early childhood education. This paper highlights the major factors contributing to the growth of Early Childhood Education including government support through policy formulation and implementation, training of ECD teachers, community’s role and changing roles among men and women.

Government Support

Kenya can still boast of some provisions on ECD. For instance, the first policy on ECD was stipulated in the Sectional Paper No. 6 of 1988 and the National Development Plan of 1989/1993. This policy is inline with Children’s Act of 2001 which safeguards the rights and welfare of children from early childhood to adolescence (UNESCO, 2005). In 2006, the government drafted a National Early Childhood Development Policy Framework. This policy was a product of the knowledge and experiences of various stakeholders in ECD from district, provincial and national level. The framework provides a co-ordination roadmap and defines the roles of various stakeholders in Early Childhood Development (RoK, 2006).

Training of ECD teachers

The opportunity for the growth of ECD has further been enhanced by the increasing number of ECD trained teachers. These teachers have been trained in various early childhood education colleges in Kenya. A good number of Early childhood centers are thus under qualified personnel. Parents are thus motivated to enroll their children in these centers. This has in turn increased the number of young children enrollment in these centers (UNESCO, 2000). However, the challenge of employment by the government still remains a big issue that has not yet been resolved.

Parents and community’s role

Kenya’s early childhood program has grown because it is rooted in the community. Through workshops and seminars organized by the DICECE, parents and community members have been encouraged and empowered to increase their participation beyond provision of physical facilities. They provide the feeding program and take part in collecting, telling and demonstrating stories, songs and dances in their respective native languages(mother tongue). The incorporation of tradition and folklore into the curriculum make the community feel proud of their contribution to the learning process and development of their children. The lesson from Kenya is that the community is a very important resource for the development of the ECD program and must continue to be tapped and appreciated. A larger portion of the costs of the preschools development are borne by the communities and external donors (Myers, 1992).

Changing Roles among men and women

Today more than ever before, the traditionally assigned roles among men and women are rapidly changing. Modern woman is now a bread winner; she is no longer a house wife who used to remain behind at home to take care of the young ones. This has contributed to the growth of early childhood development centers where children can be taken care of as both parents are actively involved in looking for livelihood.


Kipkorir, L.I., &  Njenga, A.W. (1993). A Case Study of early Childhood Care and Education in Kenya.  Paper prepared for the EFA Forum 1993, New Delhi, 9-10 September 1993. Available at: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTECD/Resources/cskenyast.pdf/

Myers, R.G. (1992) Towards an Analysis of the Costs and Effectiveness of Community-based Early Childhood Education in Kenya: The Kilifi District, Nairobi: Aga Khan Foundation.

UNESCO (2000) Framework for Action on Values of Education in Early Childhood, ECF Values, Early Education and Family Education Unit, UNESCO. Retrieved May 28, 2011 from http://portal.unesco.org/education

UNESCO (2005) Policy Review Report: Early Childhood Care and Education in Kenya, Early Childhood and Family Policy, Retrieved May 28, 2011 from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001390/139026e.pd