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Citizenship Education in Kenya | Country Profiles: Citizenship Education Around the World |

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Citizenship Education in Kenya

Grace Maingi

/ 10 Minuten zu lesen

Citizenship education, popularly referred to in Kenya as civic education, has predominately revolved around imparting to the citizens' knowledge about governance and democratic processes, in order to contribute to or facilitate political change. There have been various initiatives as well to impart knowledge on social issues such issues as the dangers of drinking alcohol, the need for safe driving, and caution about HIV/Aids. However, these initiatives are regarded more as public education rather than citizenship education, or civic education says, Grace Maingi, the author of this profile.

Kenya (© bpb)

Background information

Kenya attained independence from the British in 1963. During the colonial era, there was public demand for citizenship education, but the colonial authorities did not allow this. The efforts of early civil rights formations, such as the Kikuyu Central Association, the Kavirondo Taxpayers Central Association and the Piny Owacho Movement, were hijacked and often thwarted in the period between 1920 and 1960. Civic education through nationalist political parties began in earnest, however, with the formation of pro-independence parties beginning in 1960. This demand arose again after independence in 1991, when the country transitioned from a de jure one-party state to a constitutional multiparty democracy, following a constitutional amendment.

Citizenship education, popularly referred to in Kenya as civic education, has predominately revolved around imparting to the citizens knowledge about governance and democratic processes in order to contribute to, or facilitate, political change. There have been various initiatives as well to impart knowledge on social issues, such as the dangers of drinking alcohol, the need for safe driving and HIV/Aids prevention. However, these initiatives are regarded more as public education rather than citizenship education, or civic education.

Snatches of citizenship education have been included in Kenya’s school curriculum in such subjects as social science in primary school, and in history and government studies in secondary school. Kenya’s school system has undergone several major changes since independence. Between 1964 and 1967, the education structure was 8-4-2-3 – eight years of primary school, four years of secondary school, two years of higher school and three years of university education for most courses, except Medicine and Architecture, which took five years at the university level. From 1968 to 1985, the 7-4-2-3 system took over – seven years of primary school, four years of secondary school, two years of higher school, and three years of university education. In 1985, the school system, was changed to the 8-4-4 system as a move to focus more on training students for the labour market as opposed to a heavy emphasis on formal academics.

The eight years of primary school, four years of secondary school and four years of university education system was, however, criticized for still focusing on formal academics to the detriment of education in areas of growth the country needed, including construction, agriculture etc. This was despite a midstream change in 1991, when practical subjects like agriculture, home science and music, were removed from the primary school examinations syllabus. A new curriculum is currently being implemented. Its pilot phase focuses on competence. The logic is to allow learners to select areas of specialization at the secondary level depending on their interest and talents. It also aims to be less academic in focus, in order to build what is considered to be "a whole rounded student," with less emphasis on exams.

Outside the school system, Kenya now has a new constitution, and its civic education tends to emphasize elements of the justice-oriented citizen and responsible citizenship.

Definition of Citizenship Education

The Uraia Trust Handbook on Civic Education defines civic education as a means of educating citizens on socio-economic and political issues impacting their lives as citizens. The education process is supposed to generate citizen awareness of both their rights and their specific societal roles. Civic education is also defined by the Agile and Harmonized Assistance for Devolved Institutions (AHADI) project, as the continual and systematic provision of information and learning experiences to all citizens for their effective participation in democratic life.

Samuel K. Tororei has defined civic education as: "Political intervention which seeks to enhance the citizens' participation in their governance. To do this, civic education assists them to understand the processes, values, and systems by which they are governed and how they can affect those processes, values and systems. Civic education is therefore a positive political intervention. Civic education comprises the following: voter education, political literacy, rights education, education in democracy, peace education and development education."

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has stated that effective citizenship education involves:

  1. social and moral responsibility;

  2. community involvement; and

  3. political literacy.

Tororei further says that, in general, civic education aims at strengthening democratic life and the worth and dignity of every person, "beginning in school, and radiating out."

Ecosystem of non-formal citizenship education

Non-formal civic education is the more predominant kind of citizenship education in Kenya. It is best traced through the country’s political history and the labour movement before independence. The labour movement was at that time led by unionists like Walter Odede, J.N. Karanja, WWW Awori, Aggrey Minya, Chege Kebecha, Ben Gituiku, James Karebe, Dennis Akumu, Joseph Murumbi, Tom Mboya, and Makhan Singh among others. Political parties took over from trade unions in the period 1960 to 1963, with the independence parties of KANU and KADU in the lead. After independence, civic education suffered some level of repression, with the independence government being openly against any form of civic education or agitation. Opposition parties were neutralized in the period between 1965 and 1969. The final clampdown came on 9 June 1982, when Kenya officially became a one-party state. Civic activities and education returned to the country in 1991, with the formation of the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD), which went on to bifurcate into two political parties later that year. Both local and international non-governmental organizations have undertaken and/or supported non-formal citizenship education undertaken through public forums, media campaigns, production of materials, group training sessions, use of religious gatherings platforms etc.

In 2000, civil society groups and development partners came together to form the National Civic Education Programme (NCEP), which was a non-governmental response to the need for standardized, country-wide civic education. This was superintended by various financial management agencies, with a programme secretariat up to 2010, when a decision was made to transition NCEP to a Kenyan-owned, Kenyan-led trust, now known as Uraia Trust. Uraia is the Kiswahili word for "citizenship." Uraia Trust facilitates civic education programmes throughout the country through its nation-wide civic educators and non-governmental organizations that it supports with both financial and technical support.

In 2008, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) established a civil society democratic governance facility dubbed "Amkeni Wakenya," or Arise Kenya, a Kiswahili phrase that was taken from the second stanza of Kenya’s National Anthem. The Amkeni Wakenya programme has over the years supported various civil society organizations to promote democracy and governance reforms, as well as projects on civic education .

Following the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya in 2010, the Government of Kenya established the Kenya National Integrated Civic Education (K-NICE) Programme in 2012, a joint initiative with non-state actors, to develop a nationally-owned and sustainable programme of civic education. The Programme was under the auspices of the then Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the K-NICE Programme. It is no longer active.

In 2014, the then Ministry of Devolution and Planning, the Transition Authority and Uraia Trust partnered to develop a civic education curriculum and training manual with the technical assistance of the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD). The curriculum and training manuals are expected to standardize the content and methodology of delivery of civic education by various providers of civic education, and to contribute towards enabling both duty bearers and right holders to better understand their rights, responsibilities, and practice constitutionalism.

Legal Environment

The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 states in Article 88(4)(g) that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is responsible voter education. The IEBC is the electoral management body in Kenya, established by the Constitution.

The County Governments Act, 2012, Part X provides that there shall be established a national design and framework of civic education. Its responsibilities include determining the curriculum for this education. The institutions that have been legally mandated to facilitate civic education include the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Justice, and the County Governments.

Section 98 of the County Governments Act (2012) outlines the principles of civic education, stating that they are intended to promote:

  1. empowerment and enlightenment of citizens and government;

  2. continual and systemic engagement of citizens and government; and

  3. values and principles of devolution in the Constitution.

The Act further states that no other content may be disseminated as civic education, other than as provided for under section 100 of the Act. On the design and implementation of civic education, it states:

  1. Subject to subsection (2), each county shall implement an appropriate civic education programme and establish a civic education unit in this regard;

  2. For purposes of subsection (1), there shall be established a national design and framework of civic education, to determine the contents of the curriculum for civic education taking into account the provisions of Article 33 of the Constitution;

  3. The national and county governments shall facilitate the implementation of civic education programme under subsection (2); and

  4. The design and implementation of county civic education programmes under this section shall involve the participation of registered non-state actors as may by regulations be prescribed.

The Act states that the purpose of civic education under the Act is to have an informed citizenry that actively participates in governance affairs of society, based on enhanced knowledge, understanding and ownership of the Constitution. (2) The objectives of civic education are listed as:

  1. sustained citizens’ engagement in the implementation of the Constitution;

  2. improved understanding, appreciation, and engagement in the operationalization of the county system of government;

  3. institutionalizing a culture of constitutionalism;

  4. knowledge of Kenya’s transformed political system, context and implications;

  5. enhanced knowledge and understanding of electoral system and procedures;

  6. enhanced awareness and mainstreaming of the Bill of Rights and National Values;

  7. heightened demand by citizens for service delivery by institutions of governance at the county level;

  8. ownership and knowledge on the principal economic, social, and political issues facing county administrations and their form, structures, and procedures; and

  9. appreciation for the diversity of Kenya’s communities as building blocks for national cohesion and integration.

The Act also provides, in section 101, that county legislation shall provide the requisite institutional framework for the purposes of facilitating and implementing civic education programmes.


Stakeholders within the citizenship education space in Kenya can be divided into the two categories of state and non-state actors. State actors include the National and County Governments that have a legal mandate to undertake civic education in Kenya. Various county governments in Kenya have set up civic education units as provided for in law.

Other state actors include the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), the latter of which is mandated to undertake school curriculum development in Kenya. [15] Statutory commissions in Kenya also undertake civic education. They include the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), whose Civic Education and Advocacy Department spearheads the formulation, coordination, and implementation of educational, training and capacity building programmes aimed at promoting good relations, harmony, and peaceful co-existence between persons of different ethnic and racial communities of Kenya.

The non-state stakeholders who undertake citizenship education in Kenya include human rights and women’s rights organizations. These stakeholders undertake human rights education programmes for constituent groups, including the youth, persons with disabilities, women, marginalized groups, and religious organizations, including the Supreme Council of Muslims (SUPKEM), the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), and the Kenya Catholic Conference of Bishops (KCCB). Different professional groups, such as the Law Society of Kenya, also participate in citizenship education programmes. Individual lawyers have also undertaken citizenship education.


One of the major challenges facing citizenship education in Kenya is the lack of funding from the Kenyan government for non-formal civic education. Most non-formal civic education is provided by non-governmental organizations, who get funding from foreign development assistance programmes. This poses a challenge, as the government has used this in the past to imply that civic education in the country is foreign- funded, with motives to undermine the government and to interfere with Kenya’s general elections. This has not only hampered the work of civic educators in certain parts of the country, it has also, ultimately, undermined civic education nationally.

Apathy amongst citizens is also a challenge to citizenship education. Individuals do not see the point of engaging in governance processes, as they do not anticipate any changes Misinformation and official ineptitude, including corruption and failure by the government to promote national cohesion, also makes it difficult for the seeds of citizenship education to take root.

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Grace Maingi, Advocate of the High Court of Kenya