Modelling geographic access and school catchment areas across public primary schools to support subnational planning in Kenya

Peter Macharia, Angela K Moturi, Eda Mumo, Emanuele Giorgi, Emelda A Okiro, Robert W. Snow, Nicolas Ray

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Understanding the location of schools relative to the population they serve is important to contextualise the time, students must travel and to define school catchment areas (SCAs) for planning. We assembled a spatio-temporal database of public primary schools (PPS), population density of school-going children (SGC), and factors affecting travel in 2009 and 2020 in Kenya. We combined the assembled datasets within cost distance and cost allocation algorithms to compute travel time to the nearest PPS and define SCAs. We elucidated travel time and marginalised SGC living outside 24-minutes, government's threshold at sub-county level (decision-making units). Weassembled 2170 PPS in 2009 and 4682 in 2020, an increase of 115.8%, while the average travel time reduced from 28 to 17 minutes between 2009 and 2020. Nationally, 65% of SGC were within 24-minutes' catchment in 2009, which increased to 89% in 2020. Subnationally, 19 and 61 out of 62 sub-counties had over 75% of SGC within the same threshold, in 2009 and 2020, respectively. Findings can be used to target the marginalised SGC, and monitor progress towards attainment of national and Sustainable Development Goals. The framework can be applied in other contexts to assemble geocoded school lists, characterise travel time and model SCA.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChildrens Geographies
Number of pages17
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022


  • Education
  • Primary school-going children
  • Geographical accessibility
  • School catchment area
  • Planning
  • Kenya

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