New drive launched to get 250,000 out-of-school children back to class in 16 counties

New data reveals school dropouts at high risk of abuse and exploitation

19 October 2021
Launch of out of school programme

Nairobi, 19 October 2021 – A new programme designed to get 250,000 out-of-school children back into school by the end of 2023 is being launched by the Government of Kenya and UNICEF, in partnership with Educate A Child, a programme of the Education Above All Foundation (EAA), with support from Qatar Fund for Development. Called ‘Operation Come to School, Phase Two’, the initiative is targeting children aged 6 to 13 years in 16 counties where children are most at risk of dropping out of class.

The launch comes as a new baseline survey by the Kenyan Government, UNICEF and the National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya (Naconek) in the same 16 counties finds that pregnancy, child marriage and child labour are the primary reasons why children leave school. The counties are: Baringo, Bungoma, Garissa, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kilifi, Kwale, Mandera, Marsabit, Narok, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, Wajir and West Pokot, as well as Nairobi informal settlements.

“Every child in Kenya has the right to an education, as enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution,” Cabinet Secretary for Education Prof. George Magoha said. “The longer children are out of school, the harder it is for them to get back to learning. We must do everything possible, as quickly as possible, to get those children who are out of school back into class.”

This is the second phase of ‘Operation Come to School’, after the first phase enrolled almost 350,000 out-of-school children from 11 counties between 2015 and 2019. Phase Two is now aiming to increase the enrolment and retention of primary school-aged children, including girls and children with disabilities. Approaches will include community mobilisation, cash transfers and educational supplies to support families, teacher training and generating new evidence and policies.

“EAA is happy to be embarking on a second phase of this project in Kenya, through its Educate A Child Programme.  Together with our partner UNICEF, we will support government efforts in country to ensure that many more children, particularly those out of school before the pandemic, are given the opportunity to realise their right to a quality primary education, no matter their circumstances.” Mary Joy Pigozzi, PhD., Executive Director, Educate A Child said.

Almost 1.13 million children of primary school age (6 to 13 years old) are out of school in Kenya, according to an Out-of-School Children Initiative study conducted in Kenya in 2020[1]. The situation has worsened due to the impact of COVID-19 related school closures, followed by drought in many of the focus counties.

“All children have the right to an education but for many children in Kenya, COVID-19 and drought are making this an ever more distant dream,” UNICEF Representative to Kenya Maniza Zaman said. “We need to act now to get all children back into classrooms, making a special effort to reach girls and children with disabilities. At the same time, we need to continue to invest in a better-quality education experience that will keep children in school.”

As part of the baseline research conducted before the start of the programme, more than 2,500 children, caregivers, head teachers and education officials were surveyed on the causes of school dropout in the 16 counties. Key findings include:

  • more than one in five respondents (21%) said pregnancy is causing girls to drop out of school
  • more than one in seven (16%) cited girls dropping out due to early marriage
  • almost one in five (18%) said boys are leaving school because of child labour, including driving motorcycle taxis
  • head teachers, meanwhile, gave their main challenges in bringing children back to school as: uncooperative parents (14%), negative attitudes (13%), poverty (10%), insecurity (10%) and nomadic lifestyles (7%).

“This research confirms that children who are not in school face a multitude of dangers, including child labour, pregnancy and child marriage,” Maniza Zaman continued. “We have a chance to turn this around by getting children back into the protective environment of schools, providing them with the support they need to fulfil their potential.”

Additional materials

Download materials, including the baseline survey, photos, videos and a human-interest story here: 


[1] UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2021). Global Out-of-school Children Initiative (OOSCI): Kenya country study.


Media contacts

Joy Wanja Muraya
Communication Specialist
Tel: 0721 466 267
Kennedy Buhere
Communication Officer
Ministry of Education
Tel: P.O. Box 30040

About Educate A Child

Educate A Child (EAC) 

Educate A Child (EAC), a global programme of EAA, aims to trigger significant breakthroughs and a material difference in the lives of children who have no access to primary education. EAC has been helping millions of the hardest to reach out of school children (OOSC) around the world realise their right to a quality education. 

Through partnership and innovation, millions of children continue to be supported to overcome the barriers blocking their path to quality education. Playing a catalytic role in the field of OOSC and for those most at risk of dropping out of primary education, EAC strives to achieve individual and social outcomes for these children, their communities and a more sustainable world for us all.

Education Above All (EAA) Foundation

The Education Above All (EAA) Foundation is a global education foundation established in 2012 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. EAA envisions bringing hope and real opportunity to the lives of impoverished and marginalised children, youth and women, especially in the developing world and in dire circumstances such as conflict situations and natural disasters. We believe that education is the single most effective means of reducing poverty, generating economic growth and creating peaceful and just societies, as well as a fundamental right for all children and an essential condition to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For more information, visit

EAA is comprised of four programmes: Educate A Child (EAC), Al Fakhoora, Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), and Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC). In addition to providing access to education for children around the world, EAA advocates to safeguard inclusive and quality education for all.


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit For more information about COVID-19, visit . Find out more about UNICEF’s work on the COVID-19 vaccines here, or about UNICEF’s work on immunization here.