Theme: Social Responsibility within Changing Contexts
65th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society
April 25th
-29th 2021
Seattle, USA

Equity, education and marginalisation during the time of COVID19 – A case study in Kenya
Maina Lucy, Grassroots Innovations for change ( GRIC) , UNHCR 2020 estimated that about 1.6 Billion children and youth have experienced disruption in Education due to measures to control the spread of COVID19. This paper will look at the impact of these measures on the education of some of the most marginalised communities in Kenya and how, within the context of COVID19 in marginalised areas, social responsibility for children’s education has dramatically shifted to parents and community. This shift has occurred irrespective of culture, parenting styles or community preparedness to take on these new roles. Thus, in Kenya, with the closure of schools, many children have been deprived of their rights to education and have been further exposed to violent environments at home, teenage pregnancies, health risks and a lack of psycho-social support. The seriousness of the impact on children of these measures are vastly different according to the economic and social conditions in which they live even though the measures, and the purpose of those measures, have been similar across the world, irrespective of health or social risks. Thus, while all learners were disadvantaged some were more
disadvantaged than others.
Globally, education has been recognized as an important investment in human capital. Education endows individuals with the means to improve their skills, health, knowledge and productivity and also enhances the economy’s ability to exploit and adapt new technology for social and economic advancement. Further, the nations’ commitment to achieving Education for All (EFA) and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 4 helps to push the education discourse at the national and community level. The pursuit of these goals has been on going until the disruption earlier in March 2020 in the case of Kenya when Covid-19 stuck which led to schools’ closure.
This paper presents the results of a rapid assessment study conducted in May 2020 among marginalised learners which illustrates the above aphorism. The study was based on a random sample of 900 learners, teachers and community leaders in five locations, three informal settlements in Nairobi and two pastoralists communities in Laikipia North and Kajiado. The assessment was made against the background of steps made by the Ministry of Education, through Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), to provide education platforms for
learners to access during lockdown. It studied whether children, in these vulnerable communities, were continuing with learning during the COVID-19 pandemic; and if so, how they were learning, what support they got, whether parents, learners and teachers are aware of the KICD e-learning and what devices they have available at family level to support their learning. The survey also wanted to know what alternative learning options were available to children that could facilitate and improve learning for marginalized children during a crisis. The results from these study narrate a powerful story on equity issues within the society, both between the wealthy and the poorest and between urban poor and rural poor. It discovers several ongoing innovations that supported learning with community support and illustrates local strategies that did work and less contextualised ones that did not. It also draws out the stark differences in access to education in terms of gadgets and support to education for parents and communities. Specifically, it showed that only 3% of pastoral children and 11% of children in urban slums, have been able to access KICD learning and that there is a serious risk of learning loss and lowering interest in education leading to potential drop outs and engagement in social vices.
The study establishes which stakeholders can support learning mainly parents and through peer to peer. It also confirms how socio economic factors impact on learning outside school. The results of the survey uncover activities that can be implemented at community level and the need for the government to better support learning in marginalised areas both by using the community and by ensuring improved connectivity in remote areas. Finally, the study establishes that the effects of the pandemic on the communities extended beyond the direct impact on learning outcomes. Wider concerns were recorded by those participating in the study. There were clear concerns about increasing pregnancies, early marriage and children dropping out of education. When this paper is presented in April, it will provide the  latest statistics for these areas on pregnancy, child marriage, adolescent misbehaviour and school retention after schools reopened comparing the impact of the pandemic in these poorest areas with national averages and, where possible, the wealthiest schools as well as comparison between selected marginalised urban and marginalised rural communities.
The paper will conclude that COVID19 has left the marginalised communities more desperate but valuing grassroots organisations which continued supporting them in times of crisis, hence the need for such organizations. It will also attempt to show relative risk assessments from the pandemic and the control measures in the poorest rural areas with more wealthy areas of Kenya.