Basic formal education is compulsory throughout East Africa. In Kenya, for example, all children of primary and secondary school age are entitled to education. However, although there is growing recognition of the importance of formal education within the region, it does create some challenges for children. Many children are still not in school, especially those from poor families. Girls are less likely to attend secondary school, as are children with disabilities. Most children in rural settings walk long distances to school. Many children have to walk to school without adult protection, which often puts them at risk of abduction or sexual assault. Some children go to primary boarding schools from the age of six, which results in separation from their parents as they spend nine months of the year at school and only about three months at home.
The growing importance of education is contributing to a diminished role for community elders who traditionally held a significant role in providing guidance and wisdom. This erosion is being compounded by the internet and social media, which are becoming major sources of information for children, leading to a reduced level of influence by families and local community members.