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January 16, 2019

More women in teacher training institutions but less in decision-making positions

A file photo of trainee teachers during an in-service session at Thogoto Teachers Training College. /MONICAH MWANGI
A file photo of trainee teachers during an in-service session at Thogoto Teachers Training College. /MONICAH MWANGI

The number of women graduating from teacher training institutions in 2016 was 3,041 more than men (pg. 54), however, only 15 per cent of principals in secondary schools are female.

Data from the Kenya Economic Survey 2017 and a report carried out by the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality highlights this disparity.

When boys and girls first enter primary school, there is a negligible difference in their numbers with only 160 more boys being enrolled than girls in 2016 (pg 46).

However, in university, the gap jumps to 94,368 more boys being enrolled than girls in 2016 (pg. 56). These figures get worse with more technical subjects that have been traditionally thought of ‘boys’ subjects. 13.6 per cent more women were enrolled in teacher training institutions in 2016, a course considered more geared to females. However, in technical institutions such as polytechnics men outnumbered women by 25 per cent.

The global gender gap for men and women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) stands at 47 per cent, with 30 per cent of all male students graduating from STEM subjects, in contrast to 16 per cent of all female students, according to the World Economic Forum.

The gap widens even farther when it comes to women in decision-making positions within educational institutions.


On January 26, former Education CS Dr Fred Matiang’i appointed the VCs for 8 universities. Out of the 6 universities, only 2 got female VCs, Prof Mary Ndungu of Kirinyaga University and Prof. Lucy Irungu of Machakos University.

This is despite the fact that the number of women graduating with Master’s and PhD’s is more than that of men, the Ministry of Education revealed in 2016.

Dr Lucy Gichaga, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication in the United States International University - Africa (USIU-A) said this also feeds into the gender pay gap in education. “Holding all factors constant, we're not doing better. More women in the workforce, hasn't translated to significant reduced pay discrimination,” she said.

This feeds into the bigger problem where Kenya ranks number 47 out of 131 countries surveyed by the World Economic Forum for wage equality for similar work done, with women earning less.


This disparity may be explained in a study done by Mwangi Jane Wanjiru on the Determinants of gender imbalance in Education Administration among teachers in public secondary schools in the Larger Thika District in Kenya. The study shows that male teachers stood higher chances of promotion than female teachers. This can be attributed to the fact that once male teachers are promoted, they are not tied by family responsibilities like women. Women may have to delay for some time before they apply for promotions as they wait for their children to grow older and be independent.

This is corroborated by a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research that says the arrival of children creates a gender gap in earnings of around 20 per cent in the long run, driven in roughly equal proportions by labor force participation, hours of work, and wage rates. It also shows that the fraction of gender inequality caused by child penalties has increased dramatically over time, from about 40 per cent in 1980 to about 80 per cent in 2013. As a possible explanation for the persistence of child penalties, the study suggests that they are transmitted through generations, from parents to daughters (but not sons), consistent with an influence of childhood environment in the formation of women’s preferences over family and career.

Dr Joy Mueni, Dean of School of Journalism in Riara University dismisses this notion. “Gender pay gap is as historicals as patriarchal societies. When women left the home, the private sphere to enter the public sphere, they were immediately undermined and this goes on to date. Part of the reason is that women are seen as ‘supporting’ their husbands, or menfolk to take care of the home. Of course, a wrong notion,” she says.


The Ministry of Education itself took some time to warm up to the idea of a female lead. The first female Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology was Sally Kosgei who took the post in 2008 until 2010. Margaret Kamar then held the post from 2010 to 2013. Amina Mohamed us the third female to hold the post, and doubt has already started being cast on her ability to outperform her male predecessor.

“Women are shy to demand for higher pay.” Dr. John Mugo is the Country Coordinator of Uwezo Kenya, a five year initiative that aims to improve competencies in literacy and numeracy among children. He says that in his experience, men are more of risk takers. “What we have noted is that men, even when not as qualified, demand for higher pay than women. This is risk-taking behavior associated with men,” he says.

There is no solid data to suggest that women are better teachers than men, however, there is evidence that girls learn better when taught by women. Economist Jonathan Meer explained the phenomenon to Quartz. “Female students outperform male students by roughly a third of a school year more when taught by female teachers than when taught by male teachers,” he said. This is a particularly important finding in the fight against curbing child marriages in Kenya.


A study done by the International Journal of Advanced and Multidisciplinary Social Science also recommends that the Teachers’ Service Commission should consider giving opportunities to female teachers for leadership positions.

This can be done through policies that specifically allow for more female administrators to take up decision-making positions within educational institutions. There also needs to be a deliberate attempt to recruit more female teachers into teaching and lecturing positions.

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