During the colonial era, education was segregated along racial lines with schools built for Europeans, Asians (those from the Indian Subcontinent), and Africans. With independence, the school system was desegregated. Education is seen as an important avenue for upward social mobility and is very competitive. In Nairobi, even at the pre-school level, parents are interested in enrolling their children in schools with strong academic reputations. Competition becomes especially intense for places in top government and private high schools. A student ' s educational future is largely determined by results on national exams taken after primary school and high school. Many of Nairobi ' s approximately 77 private secondary schools and 44 state-run schools are among the country ' s best.

Nairobi is well served by institutions of higher learning. The oldest university in Kenya is Nairobi University. Another leading state-related university is Kenyatta University, which grew out of a teachers college. A number of private universities were opened in the 1980s and 1990s. Nairobi Polytechnic and Utalii College are other leading learning institutions. Utalii College was started in 1969 to provide highly trained manpower for Kenya ' s tourist industry. The college has a strong reputation and runs its own hotel in Ruaraka on the outskirts of the city.