Kenyan women turn down study opportunities

March 8, 2002

Only 35 per cent of the more than 11,000 students who will get places at Kenya's public universities this year will be women, even though the government offered them places on lower grades than male students.

Government officials, female scholars and lobbyists are disappointed that more than 75 per cent of the women selected will join arts courses and general degree programmes, which are of limited value in a shrinking economy.

The public universities' joint admission board announced the figures last week. In the two universities that offer the most competitive science and technology-based courses, female students admissions account for between 20 and 25 per cent of enrolment.

At the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, which offers science, technology and engineering courses, just 22 per cent of recruits were female.

In the faculty of agriculture engineering, just one of the 34 students is female. In electrical and civil engineering, there are respectively three and five females among 20 and 28 male students. No woman has been selected for a course in mechanical engineering.

At the University of Nairobi, just three women out of 42 entrants will take an undergraduate course in computer science. There are 18 females in architecture, building economics and design and 60 men. Again, no woman was admitted to mechanical engineering.

Fredrick Onyango, chairman of the board, said: "Most women have missed out again on professional science and technology-based courses, and most of those who will take science courses will graduate with a general degree."

Florence Lenga, dean of the agriculture faculty at JKUAT, said: "In some districts, physics is almost extinct and performance in mathematics is poor, all the more so in girls' schools. That is why women are missing out in top-profile jobs."

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