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February 18, 2019

Health and education - Kenyans choose important goals

IMPORTANT: Headteacher at Katikomor  Tom busiliru teaching class three pupils.
IMPORTANT: Headteacher at Katikomor Tom busiliru teaching class three pupils.

Healthcare and education are the two most pressing issues for Kenyans today, a new survey suggests.

The survey by the Pew Research Centre was released last week, just days ahead of the expected adoption of the sustainable development goals in New York.

Thirty three per cent of Kenyans interviewed said health was their number one priority, followed by 28 per cent who mentioned education.

These two were followed by food supply, government effectiveness, infra-structure and energy respectively.

The study comes when health-care services in some counties and schools countrywide have been paralysed by workers strikes over salaries.

Health and education figure prominently in the next set of 17 development goals (SDGs), expected to be adopted at the United Nations summit in New York this weekend.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to attend the meeting, which will wrap up the UN Millennium Development Goals and usher in the SDGs to guide global development till 2030.

Health-care in Kenya is largely financed directly from people’s pockets. The out-of-pocket health expenditure in the country was last measured at 76.62 per cent in 2013, according to the World Bank.

This refers to direct payments by households to access any kind of health service or product.

“This new snapshot of public opinion in nine African nations comes at a time when the United Nations is preparing to ratify new global goals that will shape the development agenda in Africa and elsewhere for the next 15 years,” says Richard Wike, Pew’s director of global attitudes research.

The Pew Centre is a think tank based in Washington DC, and provides information on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends around the world.

The survey in Kenya had a sample of 1,015 adults who were interviewed face-to-face in April and May this year. It has a margin of error of 4.0 percentage points.

Nine African countries were polled in this survey, and all of them listed health-care and education as the top two concerns.

They are Kenya, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

When asked the top three problems the country faces, 78 per cent of Kenyans listed lack of job opportunities, followed by corruption in the government and crime.

Speaking separately, Gideon Mailu, the expert leading the adoption of SDGs in Kenya, underscores the importance of incorporating the public needs in development.

He says Kenya is on course to meet most MDGs because civil society groups helped pick the most important themes to Kenyans. “After engaging CSOs in 2013 we had a report called “Hearing the Voices,” he said last week.

In most countries polled, people expressed the greatest faith in their own national governments. A median of 78 per cent across the nine countries where the question was asked say they are at least somewhat confident that their national government will help solve major problems.

Eight per cent of those surveyed in Kenya are confident the national government will help solve the major problems in the country. Nigeria is the only nation where a majority is very confident.

“However, large majorities consider government corruption a big problem, including about eight-in-ten or more in Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda,” says the study report.

And majorities in most countries believe government is run for the benefit of a few groups rather than the benefit of all.

In Kenya, 53 per cent of those surveyed believe the national government is run for the benefit of a few.

Citing corruption and high cost of living, 54 per cent of Kenyans favor lower taxes even if it means the government will provide fewer services.

There is a clear desire for more aid – 73 per cent of those surveyed in Kenya say the country needs more foreign aid. More than eight-in-ten in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Uganda also said their countries deserve more foreign aid. South Africa is the outlier; only 26 per cent there say they need more assistance from abroad.

However, 77 per cent Kenyans surveyed described programmes funded by aid organizations as corrupt.

The same sentiment is replicated across the nine countries where people perceive foreign assistance programs to be corrupt (median of 53 per cent) or inefficient (45per cent).

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