What do Kenyan families spend on education and what financial tools do they use?
The paper “Getting an education in rural Kenya: Findings based on the Kenya Financial Diaries” seeks to determine how much Kenyan families actually spend on education and which financial tools Kenyans deploy in obtaining an education for their children. The research shows that especially rural households value education for their children highly. A quarter of all interviewees mention education-related achievements as their main source of pride in life. This not only shows in words, but also in numbers: School expenses account for an impressive share of expenses in low-income families. For example, for households where agriculture is the main income source, it represents about 18% of expenses, twice as much as for urban households (9%).
Additionally, data shows that families pay for education in many instalments over the year, as opposed to a lump sum payment once or twice a year. In terms of financial management low-income populations are used to “putting out fires” all the time and it is for them economically rational to do the same with education if the opportunity cost of losing a day or two of schooling for their kids is not judged very high due to bad quality of education. Many children remain in primary school until their parents have enough money to pay for their secondary education, even if these children could already attend secondary school. Secondary education is more expensive especially for rural populations where the next school might be too far to commute every day. It thus implies much higher costs adding boarding and transportation expenses. In agriculture-dominant households, 68% of children at secondary school age are still in primary school.
Although agriculture-dominant households are just as motivated as other types of households to ensure that their children are well educated, there is evidence that they are, in particular, less able to provide a smooth delivery of that education. Thus development programs that seek to improve agricultural productivity while also promoting the educational attainment of smallholder farming households are striking at the heart of the burdens borne by these families.