How to Make “The Girl Effect” Real: Improving Education Outcomes for Girls in Primary Schools in the Nyanza Province of Southwestern Kenya


The World Bank, the United Nations, and many non-governmental organizations have published literature outlining the vast benefits of improving girls’ education in the developing world, yet significant educational disparities continue to exist. In order to develop economically and socially, Kenya must address this issue. Seventeen percent of primary school aged girls in Kenya are not in school.

The Nyanza Province is one of the eight provinces of Kenya. It has the highest HIV and malaria infection rates, the highest infant mortality rates, and extremely high poverty. The province is generally rural and politically isolated. Furthermore, due to the proximity of Lake Victoria, school-aged girls often have sex with fishermen to get money. They use the money to buy things they desperately need such as pens or sanitary pads. This activity leads to high early pregnancy rates, and few girls return to school once they are pregnant. According to Human Rights Watch, Nyanza Province has unusually low rates of girls who have completed secondary school. This is because a majority of girls do not complete primary school.

As the District Education Officer, you could do a number of things to help improve educational outcomes for girls in your province. Outlined below are four different strategies that you could choose to implement: (1) provide incentives to households to educate girls and increase demand for education, (2) change primary school policies to better support girls already in school, (3) give girls things they require to prevent them from dropping out as they mature, or (4) create gender awareness through girls’ clubs and forums with parents at all primary schools.

Problem Statement

Some girls never go to primary school because their parents never send them. Since many parents are uneducated themselves, they have a decreased demand for education. Furthermore, due to gender norms, families tend to prioritize the education of boys over girls. There is a large opportunity cost of sending girls to school because then they cannot stay home to do household work and watch other children. Child marriage is common in the region, with about one third of girls being married by the age of 18. Many are married earlier, because parents have an economic incentive to marry off girls’ young— they receive cows from the family of the boy.

Girls in primary school are often discriminated against or hurt by existing school policies. Currently, they can be sent home for school fees or expelled from school if they get pregnant. Schools in Nyanza also majorly lack female teachers and fail to provide a school environment where girls excel. Girls often go through adolescence and puberty changes in primary school, creating another major challenge. As they mature, they lack proper attire and sanitary pads for menstruation. They need better information to understand and deal with these changes. Lastly, schools do not provide a space for girls to come together and talk about all the challenges that they are facing. Parents are also rarely brought together to discuss girl child education and the responsibilities they have in these issues.