Being young, Kenyan and gendered: the outcomes of schooling and transitions to adulthood in poor urban and rural settings

Fatuma Chege, Kenyatta University, Kenya

This paper foregrounds the experiences of schooling among young female and male Kenyan youth aged between 18 and 25 years living in conditions of relative material poverty in urban and rural communities. Using qualitative data–from interviews, household activity triggers and photo-data – the study demonstrates how young men and women from impoverished families and communities differently negotiate the outcomes of their schooling. Needing to transform their lives and break out of the cycle of poverty, their challenge is also to sustain their sense of belonging to, and participation in, their local communities. The findings capture their expressed faith in formal education as a worthwhile investment for the betterment of society even when it apparently fails to deliver on the economic expectations of this young generation of hopeful Kenyan women and men. The difference between young people’s educational aspirations and the life outcomes to which it leads, and the expectations of education of parents and elders for young men and women, demonstrates the challenge to formal education of offering any sort of better life for both young male and female Kenyans and their communities. This paper interrogates the implications of the study findings for Kenyan young people, who are the country’s hope for a better future.

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