Back to Africa Check

Verifying Kenyan president Ruto’s claims on health insurance, teacher shortages and more

As his government enters its second year, president William Ruto is keen to show progress. This was evident in his recent Mashujaa (Heroes) Day speech.

  • Ruto was correct that health insurance coverage is low in Kenya, at 26% across the population and as low as 5% in the poorest quintile, or 20%, of people.

  • Ruto also had his numbers straight when it came to public school teacher recruiting, which has been a staggering 56,000 in the past year, but still only about half of the total teacher shortfall in the country. 

  • In stressing the importance of boosting edible oil production locally, the president was also correct that the bill for importing this commodity currently costs Kenya US$1 billion, or KSh148 billion.

On 20 October 2023, Kenya marked Mashujaa Day, Kiswahili for Heroes Day, in Kericho, 260 kilometres northwest of the capital Nairobi.

In his official address, Kenyan president William Ruto made a number of claims as he works to bed in his year-old government.

We fact-checked five on health, education and food.


“Health insurance coverage in Kenya is generally low, at 26%.”



For evidence of the president’s claims, we contacted State House spokesperson Hussein Mohamed. We will update this report if we hear back.

Prefacing this claim, Ruto said there had been “unsuccessful” efforts to achieve universal health coverage or care (UHC). 

UHC aims to ensure that everyone has access to the health services they need without struggling to pay for them. These services include interventions from how to stay healthy, to treatment, recovery and care at the end of life. 

Ruto said that his government had passed four laws to make universal cover viable. “Health insurance coverage in Kenya is generally low at 26 per cent,” he said.

For reliable data on health insurance coverage, we turned to Prof Thumbi Mwangi, co-director of the Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis at the University of Nairobi. The centre is an independent research laboratory of data scientists, infectious disease researchers and epidemiologists.

Mwangi, an infectious disease epidemiologist, has written extensively on Kenyan health policy and has provided evidence for policy-making to the country’s health ministry.

The most recent credible data is from the 2022 Kenya demographic health survey, he told Africa Check. This is a national survey to provide up-to-date estimates of demographic, health and nutrition indicators for policy making.

The centre crunched the survey numbers and provided analysis on health insurance coverage. 

The data shows that 26% of Kenyans reported having some form of insurance, with the majority (23.5%) covered by the state-run National Health Insurance Fund. This is compulsory for all employed Kenyans. Commercial or private insurers accounted for 3.8%, with the remainder covered by community-based insurers.

We therefore rate the claim correct. – Tess Wandia

Health insurance coverage in Kenya

“Health insurance coverage is correlated with access to health services,” Prof Thumbi Mwangi, co-director of the Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis at the University of Nairobi, told Africa Check.

“It helps reduce the costs associated with illness, treatment, and care.”

The focus tended to be on chronic conditions and emergency care, which were often expensive and carried crippling financial costs for the uninsured.

“The government finds a way to pool the social risk, so that everyone pays according to their ability, while also recognising that there are people with a good income and those with no income,” he said. 

Mwangi said some countries that had made significant progress towards universal health coverage included the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Scandinavian countries, such as Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway.

However, health insurance coverage is only one aspect of universal health coverage. Health infrastructure, the workforce and the provision of primary health care services, as well as education, such as the promotion of healthy lifestyles, are all part of the menu.

Public health initiatives, such as access to clean water, healthy sanitation, and infectious disease control programmes, are also critical.


“Those at the bottom of the economic pyramid have the least health insurance coverage, which is less than 5%.”



Data on this claim could also be found in the 2022 demographic health survey, which was the most recent, Mwangi said. 

“Health insurance coverage increases with increasing wealth, from 5% [in] the lowest wealth quintile to 58% in the highest wealth quintile,” the survey found

A wealth quintile is a way of categorising individuals or households according to their relative economic status or wealth, using indicators such as income and living conditions. The population is divided into five equal parts or quintiles. Each quintile therefore represents 20% of the total. 

Individuals or households with similar economic characteristics are grouped together in the same quintile. This makes it possible to analyse economic disparities and the distribution of wealth.

In Kenya, only 5% of the bottom quintile had health insurance, with the majority (3.6%) covered by the government's National Hospital Insurance Fund.

We therefore rate this claim as correct. – Tess Wandia


“In the last year, the Teachers Service Commission has recruited 56,000 teachers.”



This was the largest such recruitment in Kenya’s history, the president said. Kenya recruits its public school teachers through the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), a statutory body that is the largest public employer in the country.

Ruto also gave the same figure of 56,000 on 1 August 2023, when he received a report from the presidential working party on education reforms. 

We tracked down the key events around this number:

  • On 13 December 2022, the commission advertised 30,550 vacancies, made up of 21,550 intern teachers and 9,000 permanent and pensionable teachers for junior secondary schools. It also sought 4,000 primary school teachers.
  • On 20 January 2023 TSC secretary Nancy Macharia confirmed that this number was being recruited. 
  • On 5 July the commission also advertised for 20,000 intern teachers, 18,000 for junior secondary schools and 2,000 for primary schools. 

This adds up to 54,550 teachers hired through mass recruitment. The remaining 1,439 posts were advertised in March, including contract and intern teachers as well as those on permanent and pensionable terms. This brings the total number of teachers to 55,939.

With the majority being interns, the TSC told Kenya’s national assembly in November that the trainees would serve for two years and would be absorbed on a permanent basis once their contract expired.

The retention of intern teachers on the government payroll was first reported in January. 

The commission’s 2023-2027 strategy shows that it had a recruitment target of 55,935 teachers by June 2023.

On 5 October, during a World Teachers’ Day address, Macharia said Ruto’s government had recruited 56,000 teachers in its first year. 

The publicly available figures add up. – Alphonce Shiundu


“56,000 is half the required number of teachers.”



Ruto said the recruitment of 56,000 teachers was “half of the shortage” of teachers in Kenya. “We intend to close the gap … in the coming two years.”  

The Ministry of Education’s 2018-2022 strategy highlighted the teacher shortage, with a forecast of 119,419 teachers needed in 2023. The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) was the source of this projection, the ministry said.


The TSC's 2023 data, included in the June 2023 report of a presidential working group on education reform, showed a shortage of 44,496 teachers in public primary schools and 58,581 in public secondary schools – a total of 103,077.

Teacher demand is projected after analysing student enrolment, pupil-teacher ratios, number of classes, average class size, number of streams, currently employed teachers and average teacher workload.

The impact of government policies on funding education and strategies for recruiting teachers is also considered.

On 6 July, the commission launched its five-year strategy for 2023-2027. This identified a shortage of 111,870 teachers. Half of this figure, 55,935, is close to the president's figure of 56,000.

We therefore rate the claim as correct. – Alphonce Shiundu


“Our national edible oil import bill [is] $1 billion (KSh 148 billion).”



A typical Kenyan family spends a third of its income on food. Ruto has been under pressure to boost local edible oil production to reduce the country's import bill, even as he grapples with a multi-billion shilling pricing scandal over an import deal. 

Ruto said the annual edible oil import bill had now reached US$1 billion (KSh148 billion), so his government was distributing sunflower seeds to farmers in the country to boost local production.

For data on edible oil imports, Africa Check spoke to Benson Karugu, a statistician at the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, who referred us to the bureau's annual economic survey.

Based on the harmonised commodity description and coding system, edible oils are classified as “animal/vegetable fats and oils” in the survey, Karugu said. 

According to the latest survey, the value of edible oil imports in 2022 was KSh 145.8 billion. Karugu said although this was a provisional figure, the likelihood of it changing significantly was quite low.

We therefore rate this claim as correct. – Tess Wandia

Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.