By AUGUSTINE ODUOR
As President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta readies to take over leadership, teachers are lining up issues they want his government to resolve, a good number that spill from President Kibaki’s administration.
The teachers want Jubilee coalition government to prioritise recruitment of 40,000 qualified teachers to enhance learning in school. This will require the government to set aside Sh15.4 billion to hire the teachers to ease shortage that currently stands at 80,000.
Officials of Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) also said they want the new government to fulfil education sector pledges they made and to quickly resolve pending issues with teachers.
Knut and Kuppet officials further said negotiated salary increments must also be implemented to avoid a hostile relationship between teachers and the new government.
Knut Secretary General Xavier Nyamu said the new government should spread recruitment of the 40,000 teachers in the coming financial years.
“Once they recruit teachers and pay them better salaries, we will then start focusing on other areas of education, including the pledge to offer laptops to every child,” said Mr Nyamu.
Mr Nyamu, in addition, said the Government should plan to recruit teachers to replace thousands of those who are expected to retire this year after attaining the mandatory age.
“The State should start planning for them to avoid a situation where the shortage increases thus affecting learning,” he said.
The Kibaki government is yet to pay Sh16.7 billion to the 52,000 retired teachers. Finance minister Njeru Githae said last year that the money was available, but he did not make a commitment of when the government will pay the retirees. Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Technology heard last year that the Attorney General’s office was the obstacle between the retired teachers and their dues.
“Hiring of teachers must be on top of the new-government agenda. This is one area that the Uhuru government should address because the number of pupils has increased tremendously,” said Kuppet national chairman Omboko Milemba.
Teachers are also demanding that the free learning capitation be revised to march the current living standards.
Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) and Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) officials argued that current rates, which were proposed in 2003 and 2008 have been overtaken by time.
Kessha outgoing national chairman Cleopas Tirop said the amount disbursed per student should be doubled.
Each secondary school pupil has been receiving Sh10,265 every term. “We want this revised to over Sh20,000 per student if education is indeed to become free,” said Tirop.
Kepsha national chairman Joseph Karuga also said capitation for free primary education should be increased from Sh1,020 to Sh7,250. Government statistics indicate that as at last year, there were 8.7 million pupils in primary schools, up from 5.9 in 2003. Another 1.9 million students were in secondary schools, up from 1.28 in 2008. So far, Sh190 billion has been spend in financing free education.
Teachers are also expecting the new government to streamline Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE). Education PS George Godia said the Government needs Sh6.9 billion to recruit about 25,000 ECD teachers to ensure there is solid foundation for pupils. Prof Godia said some three million nursery school children are already receiving grants as free education extends to early learning.
He said Sh1.6 billion has been disbursed in the first phase of financing ECD. Godia said each child is allocated Sh1,020 just as is the case with primary school pupils. Knut said there is a shortage of over 60,000 ECD teachers. “If we want quality education, let it start from early learning. The Government should recruit teachers at that level,” said Nyamu.
Knut and Kuppet officials said Jubilee coalition government must also factor in teachers’ allowances and other dues. “We want legal notice No.16 of 2003 be degazzetted to pave way for the 1997 legal notice No. 534,” said Nyamu. Knut called off a planned nationwide strike after signing a return to work formula that proposed degazzetment of the contentious legal notice.
The Government has always argued that this notice overturned legal notice No.534 of 1997 under which house, commuter and medical allowances were negotiated and agreed upon by Knut and the State.
This means that once Education minister Mutula Kilonzo de-gazettes the notice, all teachers are set to benefit from full allowances package as was negotiated in 1997. If implemented, that would translate to an additional Sh2 billion on TSC’s monthly wage bill.
“If they fulfil those issues, then there shall be no need for industrial action under this government. We want that to be a thing of the past,” said Nyamu.