Mental Health in Kenyan Schools: Teachers’ Perspectives



This qualitative study, conducted in public primary and secondary schools, sought teachers’ perceptions of mental health concerns that are relevant in school settings. Based on the phenomenological theory, the study aimed to understand the teachers’ experiences of mental health problems in the schools and how they handled them.


The schools sampled represented rural, suburban, and urban sections of Kiambu County in Kenya. Data were collected through focus group discussions (FGDs). The researcher made summary notes from both audio-taped interviews and notes made by the research assistants and summarized the major themes.


Teachers reported that they were aware that students suffered from mental health problems. They recognized learning difficulties, externalizing problems, internalizing problems, bizarre behavior, and problem substance use among students. Teachers reported that lack of skills and time were challenges in dealing with student mental health problems.


Teachers perceive a presence of mental health problems among the students. There is need for in-service training for the identification and referral and that school psychologists be employed to deal with student mental health problems.

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This study was funded by the National Institute of Health (grant number DA3TW010141), Partnership for Health Research Training in Kenya.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anne Wanjiru Mbwayo.

Ethics declarations

Study methods were approved by the Kenyatta National Hospital and University of Nairobi ethics review board (KNH/UON ERC), Protocol Number P8/01/2017.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study was cleared by KNH/UoN ERC.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Mbwayo, A.W., Mathai, M., Khasakhala, L.I. et al. Mental Health in Kenyan Schools: Teachers’ Perspectives. Glob Soc Welf 7, 155–163 (2020).

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  • Students
  • Teachers
  • Mental health problems
  • Learning difficulties
  • Internalizing and externalizing problems