Rehema Wachira | 2012  A predatory government seeking to centralize its power can manipulate the distribution of public goods and services to its own advantage but not without serious consequences. Kenya’s turbulent record of institutional reform shows that political liberalization is a risky endeavor for countries with weak institutions and polarized social groups. Important lessons can be learnt by other developing countries attempting to reform their own institutions.

In Kenya, education is a valuable and strongly demanded national service which the Kenyan government has transformed into a highly contentious political good. In the process, it has damaged the education sector, which has resulted in the further marginalization of the majority of Kenyans. The consequences have been severe and are exemplified by the near breakdown of the political order during the Post-Election Violence crisis of 2007/2008. But they also manifest themselves in more localized ways. For example, in a trend that shows no signs of stopping, it was reported that 7 primary school students and one school Headmaster committed suicide over their national primary school examination results, all at the start of 2012.

The first chapter examines how Kenya’s early political and economic development encouraged the politicization of education and polarized Kenya’s ethnic groups by creating a small ruling elite. The second chapter explores the factors that influenced the concentration and personalization of power in the Executive and his small ruling elite, as well as the subsequent misdirection of state resources toward patronage instead of social development. Finally, I analyse the most recent constitutional reforms, the distribution of power and resources that they entail and the impact it could have on the education sector.

I suggest that the 2002 general elections and the 2007/2008 Post-Election Violence were significant events that altered the country’s development discourse and forced an uneasy partnership between the people and the government. Although it is too early to determine the success of the new reforms, it is clear that Kenya is at a critical juncture with the potential to break the cycle of mismanagement of the education sector in particular and the country as a whole.

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