Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Quality of Kenya’s education and health services incompatible with Vision 2030

By MWANGI S. KIMENYI & RITVA REINIKKA

Kenya’s ambitious Vision 2030 — of a globally competitive and prosperous nation with high quality of life — comes due when the toddlers of today venture forth as young adults.

But what are the odds that the country will have reached its goals when this new generation comes of age?

Evidence suggests that much depends on whether health and education services are boldly and quickly upgraded alongside progress in other critical areas like infrastructure.

No country has succeeded in meeting aspirations such as those embodied in Vision 2030 without smart investments in basic services.

While more Kenyan children are surviving their fifth birthdays today, too many mothers still die as a result of complications related to childbirth.

And while Kenya has made great strides towards universal primary education, surveys reveal that only a third of Standard Two children can read a simple sentence or do elementary arithmetic.

Children may be in school, but there is only a weak guarantee that they are learning. Without a strong education, their chances of productive employment in adulthood remain limited.

Taxpayers in Kenya and donors have paid to build, renovate and equip public schools and health centres.

But not enough attention has been paid to what is actually happening inside these buildings, to the quality of services that are being delivered to children and adults.

As a result, there is a worrying gap between the money and materials that go into them on the one hand and the results that emerge on the other.

A cursory look at the national budget shows a fair volume of money already flowing into education and health.

And in today’s world, resources are finite. So, bold action is inescapable — schools and clinics absolutely must dispense much-improved services in the near future to deliver the masomo bora (good education) and matibabu kwa wote (treatment for all) that are essential elements of Kenya’s Vision 2030.

On July 12, 2013, data from a new survey — undertaken with the collaboration of the World Bank, the African Economic Research Consortium and the African Development Bank, with the support of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation — will provide insights into how Kenya’s education and health systems function at the frontline.

Called the Service Delivery Indicators, and supported in Kenya by CIDA and USAid’s Health Policy Programme, these surveys take a look at what teachers and health workers know and what they do (capturing their capacity, motivation, and effort), and the tools and infrastructure at their disposal.

They provide a snapshot of what citizens experience in schools and clinics.

Broadly, the Service Delivery Indicators for Kenya show a weak link between resources and service delivery outcomes.

Teachers and health providers are often absent from duty, albeit usually on sanctioned leave, and when present, spend limited time teaching or treating patients. The indicators also reveal substantial gaps in provider knowledge.

These service delivery failures translate to poor student performance and poor health outcomes. The message is that counting the number of students enrolled in school or the number of clinics is not enough.

What is more significant is whether students are actually being taught and whether patients receive the right treatment.

Citizens can use this information to hold the government and service providers accountable and to push for better results. The government can use it to overcome systemic failures, target reforms, and achieve more value for money.

Kenya can draw on this information to strengthen the public debate and to undertake reforms towards raising the quality of healthcare and education, particularly for women and children from poor families.

A modern economy such as the one laid out in Kenya’s Vision 2030 cannot be propelled by just a few, with the majority left behind. All households must be healthy and well-educated for Kenya’s future prosperity and sustained economic growth.

Mr Kimenyi is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, while Ritva Reinikka is the director for Human Development in Africa at the World Bank.

*Watch the Kenya findings presented and discussed at 9.30am on July 12 at www.livestream.com/worldbankafrica).

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