Kenya is one of the most popular expat destinations in Africa. Many of those who relocate to Kenya do so with children and for these expats, finding a good school is a priority. Expats living in Nairobi will find a good selection of private and international schooling options for their children – however, school fees can be prohibitively expensive.
Many public schools in Nairobi are underfunded and poorly resourced, although those within cities are generally of a better standard compared to rural areas. Still, private schools hold more promise, especially for expat students from the UK as the academic system is similar to the British national curriculum.
For many expats moving to Nairobi, the best option is one of the international schools as this typically causes the least disruption to the child’s studies, allowing them to continue with a familiar curriculum.
Public schools in Nairobi
Public schools in Nairobi follow the standard Kenyan education system, which consists of eight years of primary school, four years of secondary school and four years of university education.
Tuition for both primary and secondary public education is free, though this leaves many schools underfunded and under-resourced. Still, Kenya's curriculum is relatively good, and students can attend academic or technical secondary schools. Universities are open to graduates of both types of schools.
The Kenyan curriculum for academic schools offers an extensive scope of subjects categorised into languages, sciences, applied sciences, humanities, creative arts and technical subjects. The core subjects are English, Kiswahili and maths, and English is the language of instruction. Alternatively, technical secondary schools give students a more practical approach to learning, preparing them for the workforce.
Private schools in Nairobi
Private schools in Nairobi are likely a preferred choice by expats and the curriculum and subjects available vary widely. As they are fee-paying institutions, children will receive a decent level of education and have better learning facilities than in the public system.
Many of Nairobi's private schools follow Kenya's national curriculum with a KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) and KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) at the end of primary and secondary school respectively.
International schools are a type of private school that follows curricula from around the world.
International schools in Nairobi
Nairobi is a big city with a wide variety of international schools that serve a large and diverse expat population. Due to the many options, expat parents must do their research before deciding which school is right for their child.
Most international schools accept new students year-round but it should be noted that some have a waiting list and there is no guarantee of acceptance. So it's best to start the application process as early as possible, especially if there is a strong preference for a particular school.
The major downside of international schools in Nairobi is the hefty tuition that expat parents will need to pay. Fees differ according to the school, age of the child and curriculum offered. Expats moving to Nairobi for work should try to negotiate the inclusion of an education allowance in their relocation and employment package.
Nurseries in Nairobi
Expat parents with young children in Nairobi will find many options for nurseries and daycare centres. Some kindergartens and nurseries are a part of larger international schools and many follow a Montessori-style approach, though bear in mind that some come with heavy fees.
As traffic in Nairobi can get chaotic, the location of the nursery is important, and how far away it is from the area and suburb where one lives.
Homeschooling in Nairobi
The law on homeschooling in Kenya is unclear, but many families opt in favour of it. Nairobi's mainstream education may not be suitable for everyone, being either largely under-resourced or overly expensive. Parents may also find the style of learning puts too much pressure on their children.
It is worth checking which international schools are also exam centres that allow homeschooling children to sit and write exams under their invigilation.
Expat parents can use social media and networks to connect with other homeschooling families in Nairobi. Social media groups are great for organising social activities and getting to know others in Nairobi's homeschooling community.
Tutors in Nairobi
Tutors in Nairobi are easy to find. International schools may connect students with tutors, while online platforms, such as TeacherOn and PigiaMe, are also helpful. Tutors specialising in British, American, Kenyan and other curricula can easily be reached in these ways to provide extra support to students.
Special needs education in Nairobi
Children with disabilities have a right to accessible and free basic education in Kenya. Unfortunately, many of Nairobi's schools do not offer extensive inclusive support to integrate these children in their mainstream classes. As such, there are specific public schools in Nairobi dedicated to providing special needs education.
Private and international schools may offer more inclusive services to integrate children with learning or physical disabilities into their mainstream classes. This includes schools such as West Nairobi School, the International School of Kenya and Lycée Denis Diderot (French School of Nairobi).
The level of support from each varies, so it's best to contact the school directly. Embassies may also provide lists of recommended schools in Nairobi for students with learning or physical disabilities.
►See our list of international schools in Nairobi
►Not sure where to live? Learn more about Nairobi's various neighbourhoods.
"The main private schools that expats choose in Kenya follow the British national curriculum and are members of the IAPS (Independent Association of Preparatory Schools). There are also a couple of schools that follow a US or other international curriculum." Read this expat interview for a full list of Frances' recommended primary and secondary schools in Nairobi.
"The biggest challenge was moving from a South African schooling system to a British one. My son was two years behind his age group in terms of reading and writing, so he had to drop a year." For more on schools in Kenya, read our interview with Nadine.
Are you an expat living in Nairobi?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Nairobi. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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