Nomadic Education in Kenya: A Case Study of Mobile Schools in Samburu County as a Transformative Innovation Policy



John Ayisi1, Frank Ndakala1, Rose Nyanga2, Chux Daniels3, Boniface Wanyama4, Roselida Owuor1,5

1 Ministry of Education, Directorate of Research, Science and Technology (DRST), Nairobi, Kenya.

2 Maseno University, Kenya

3 Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, UK

4 National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI), Nairobi, Kenya

5 National Research Fund (NRF), Nairobi, Kenya


Pastoralism, an “extensive livestock production in the rangelands”, is practiced on more than one-third of the world’s land surface (that includes two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa and 80% of Kenya) by 500 million (50% from Africa) pastoralists (shepherds, herders or nomads), providing high-value livestock products.  Pastoralists move with their livestock in search of water and pasture, excluding their children from the conventional “static” education system, resulting in low- enrolment, retention, and completion rates among their children.  For Kenya to attain SDG4, it must mainstream its education to suit nomadic lifestyle.  Mobile schooling is therefore an innovation to fill the gap resulting from sedentary education system, to ensure an inclusive and equitable quality education that promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all.  The objective of this study was to trace implementation of the mobile schools in the lens of transformative innovation policy, their successes, challenges and quality of services.


The study site was Samburu, an arid County in northern Kenya. Using transformative innovation learning history (TILH) methodology, field interviews were held with Key informants and Focus Group Discussions conducted on 28th May 2019 at Locho village of Samburu Central sub-County.  A national workshop for stakeholders on nomadic education was held on 30th May 2019 at the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI), Nairobi, Kenya.  In addition, secondary sources of information that included various government documents, reports, and books, research papers in journals, economic surveys, magazines and periodicals were also reviewed.

Findings – Contribution to the roles of experimentation with policies and niche innovation for transformative change (theme 3) and specific actors in transformative change: Government, business, scholars and civil society organizations (theme 5) 

  • Mobile schools (MSs) were a “community-led owned initiative” identified in 2003 through Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) with UNICEF
  • There is an increased demand for education due to enhanced awareness through MSs initiative in Samburu.
  • There is a need to strengthen and upscale MSs to reach and empower most far-flung nomadic children and adults with relevant education needed to support their economic and social needs
  • Mobile schools provide a flexible model of education that is well suited to the nomadic pastoralist lifestyle, favorable for achieving “Education for All” and SDG 4.
  • To increase the effectiveness of MSs, there is an urgent need to provide modern infrastructure and items including tents, source of power (from solar and wind) for lighting at night and run mobile devices, books, chairs, toilets and sanitation facilities, medical kits, portable drinking water and mid-day meals.
  • The government needs to enforce the anti-FGM Act and provide sanitary towels to schoolgirls.
  • The government to promote and strengthen strong mobile besides stationary schools to ensure nomads receive quality education.
  • National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya (NACONEK) is to ensure nomadic education programme is aligned to national curriculum and ascertain requisite standards and smooth transition from mobile to formal schools
  • Map out migratory routes of the nomadic pastoralists establish MS shelters.

 Mobile schools in the lens of Transformative Innovation Policy

 Directionality: adapting portable local materials to deliver flexible schooling

 Societal goals: Addressing SDG4

 System level impact: MSs (niche innovation) impacts education, health, environment, agriculture, peace, security and justice

 Learning and Reflexivity: Routines (sedentary schools and practices) are questioned to adjust to nomadic learners

 Conflict versus Consensus: Trade-off decisions between education and cultural norms recognized.

 Inclusiveness: “Community‐led/owned initiative”



Programme committee:

Core committee – Johan Schot, Bipashyee Ghosh, Jordi Molas Gallart, Sarah Schepers, Victoria Shaw, Pip Bolton, Kejia Yang

Advisors – Matthias Weber, Bruno Turnheim, Ann Kingiri, Erika Kraemer-Mbula, Alejandra Boni, Fred Steward

Funding support: Eu-SPRI

Hosts: CSIC-UPV Ingenio

Government of Kenya, MoE, NACOSTI & NACONEK

Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, UK


Project Resources

Ayisi, J., Ndakala, F., Nyanga, R., Daniels, C., Owuor, R., Ting, B., & Wanyaman, B. (2019). Nomadic Education in Kenya:  A Case Study of Mobile Schools in Samburu County, As a Transformative Innovation Policy.

Ayisi, J., Ndakala, F., Nyanga, R., Daniels, C., Owuor, R., Ting, B., & Wanyaman, B. (2019). Analysis of transformative components of mobile schools for the nomads in Kenya. TIP Africa hub Research Brief.

Ayisi, J., Ndakala, F., Nyanga, R., Daniels, C., Owuor, R., Ting, B., & Wanyaman, B. (2019). Emerging transformative approaches for achieving sustainable development goals in Africa: the case of nomadic education in Kenya. TIP Africa hub Research Brief.

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