An Exploratory study of the potential role of governance in improving the performance of low-income private schools in Kibera-Nairobi /
Mwesiga, Cordelia N.
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Schools play an important role in all countries in the world. In Kenya, poor families in both rural and urban areas face challenges in accessing education. In response, private low-income schools have been started by community members, particularly in urban slums, to address the educational needs of children of poor families. By their very nature private low-income schools face various governance problems. This study explores the relationship between governance and performance of low-income schools in the Kibera slums of the city of Nairobi. The objectives of the study were: to discover and understand how governance was understood by owners and managers of low-income schools; to establish whether low income schools were operating according to specific governance guidelines and frameworks; and to determine the contribution of governance to the performance of low-income schools. The study adopted an exploratory survey design. The population of interest consisted of low-income schools located within the Kibera slums in Nairobi city. A stratified random sampling technique based on administrative units of the Kibera slum was used in selecting 30 low-income schools. Data was collected through interviewer- administered questionnaire. In-depth interviews were also held with 5 head teachers to assess the interpretation of governance in low income schools. Data was analyzed using means scores, standard deviation, and Pearson correlation coefficient. Four research propositions were tested based on data that was generated by the study. It was established that low-income schools had a low number of students owing to their lack of capacity to admit many students. The number of teachers ranged between five and nine in the majority of the schools. The method of governance adopted was determined by the ownership status of the schools. Participatory governance was preferred by more than half of the school surveyed. Even though school boards and committees had terms of reference this did not translate into effective governance in low-income schools. Governance in these schools was characterized by the presence of weak committees; over reliance on the head teacher, chairman and treasurer; lack of unity of purpose among governors; and financial instability. It was established that good governance contributed to improved performance of schools but governance on its own does not influence the financial performance and stability of low-income schools. The study therefore, concluded that in as much as governance is a necessary it is not a sufficient condition for providing financial stability of low-income schools. The findings of the study revealed that a combination of difference governance methods in low-income schools could potentially reduce performance. Guided by these findings, the study recommends that it is important to strengthen the structures of governance in private low-income schools. In this regard, there may be something to be learned by looking at the relationship between governance and performance in public schools. Moreover, research should be carried out to see how best to train and motivate members of private low-income schools who perform a governance role to be more active and committed in their work.