Date of Submission



The global trend in the management of public school systems is systematic decentralisation of authority and responsibility to the school level. The local community, through their representatives in the school boards or committees, are mandated to make decisions on significant matters related to school operations. This devolution of authority and responsibility to school level decision-makers is intended to ensure transparency, accountability, ownership and provision of quality education. Although the public primary school boards have been in existence in Kenya since the 1980s, they became more prominent after the introduction of free primary education in 2003 and the determination to realise the education for all goal in the year 2015. In urban low socioeconomic settings such as Kibera slum, the boards operate under extremely difficult conditions. Most of the board members are low income earners with relatively low levels of education, and yet they are expected to provide effective and strategic leadership to the schools. Paradoxically, some schools within this setting have performed much better than schools in well-off settings. It is not clear, though, if the performance of such schools could be attributable in any way to their school boards. This study was necessitated by the paucity of literature on the efficacy of public primary school boards in developing nations and in urban low socioeconomic settings. Invitational Education Theory and Practice, Ecological System Theory, and Pragmatism provided the theoretical framework used to describe the operation and impact of public primary school boards in Kibera slum in Kenya. Kibera is the largest informal settlement in Sub-Saharan Africa and one of the five largest slums in the world. According to invitational theory, a school is considered inviting if the physical environment, people, processes, policies and programs are conducive to teaching and learning. Ecological systems theory posits that a child’s development is affected by both family and ecological factors (social, political, biological and economic conditions). To explore how the public primary school boards are effective in assuring quality education is provided to slum children, despite the internal and external factors, this study adopted the pragmatic stance. There is a growing trend of school-based management movement towards model of corporate governance. Although several models of decentralisation existed their differences were based on where the locus of decision-making lies — administrative, professional and/or community. Board membership and the relationship between the board and the principal or head teacher were challenging aspects of the governance in most of the developed countries. The overarching goal of this study was to determine, from participants’ perceptive, how the public primary school boards in urban low socioeconomic settings in Kenya impacted upon the school climate, parental involvement and pupils’ performance.


School of Education

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


382 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education and Arts