In Kenya, there are three different levels of education; primary level education which is similar to elementary school in the US; secondary school which is similar to high school and university level schooling.

Primary School Education:

Under the current Kenyan education system, all primary school children are entitled to free education. Indeed, their campaign slogan, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”, highly popularized the government’s free primary education program (FPE) policy. Primary school education after all, is free…but is it really? We feel, that despite many improvements shown by the new government, sadly, the word “free” in this context still remains subjective. While official school fees are free, the cost of education in and of itself is not. Most schools have historically imposed levies that ultimately amount to more than the cost of regular fees. The fees charged are labeled various names such as construction fees, chalk fees, activity fees etc. and children, regardless of background, are subject to expulsion from school, if unable to pay.

What does primary school education cost? Though the cost obviously varies by grade and location, the general cost of one year of primary school is about Ksh 36,600 ($500 USD), per pupil. This cost covers workbooks, textbooks, activities and school uniforms.

Secondary School Education

As indicated above, there is a significant disparity between the attendance at primary and secondary levels of education. The reason is purely financial; the government does not cover secondary school education. Secondary level schooling, unlike primary level schooling, costs much more. Unlike other areas of the world such as the US and Europe where boarding schools are considered exclusive, such is not the case in Kenya. Most secondary schools, including those in the rural areas, are boarding schools. It goes without saying, therefore, that this is one of the reasons why tuition costs are higher. The schools house students for nine out of the twelve months in a year, providing all meals, boarding expenses and extra curricular activity costs.

Tuition costs for secondary school education greatly varies depending on whether a school is local, district or national. In addition, other categorizations such as whether a school is considered “high” or “low” cost, also impact the fees. Technical schools have separate structures.