By Sam Otieno
The Teachers Service Commission wants the Government to lift the freeze on recruitment of teachers to address an acute shortage in primary and secondary schools.
The TSC yesterday said the current shortfall of over 66,000 teachers is "a catastrophe" for the education system.
According to the latest assessment by the TSC, primary schools need 43, 012 new teachers while secondary schools need 23, 291 teachers.
TSC secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni yesterday told The Standard that if the freeze continues the shortfall would shoot up to more than 81,000 teachers at the end of the financial year beginning July 1.
Lengoiboni said primary schools alone would have a shortage of 53, 012 teachers, while post-primary institutions will face a deficit of 28, 377 teachers by July next year, if new teachers were not employed.
"These projected figures are appalling. They show the crisis facing schools," said Lengoiboni.
The plea to allocate more money to employ more teachers coincides with the reading of the 2010-2011Budget by Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday.
Lengoiboni said 2,000 primary school teachers have to be replaced, as do 1,500 in post-primary institutions who have since retired or resigned.
A senior deputy secretary in charge of staffing at TSC, Nancy Macharia, said their latest assessment places the current shortage of teachers at 66, 303.
The commission says many schools are finding it difficult to fill vacancies, while most rural schools have trouble attracting teachers.
Many secondary schools do not have enough teachers for subjects clustered as humanities, including Geography, Kiswahili, History and CRE.
Technical training institutions also face challenges recruiting teachers for law, aviation, pharmacy and lab technology.
"We have tried to relax some of the conditions for their employment, but we are still not attracting these people," sad Lengoiboni.
The shortage has been escalated by the rapid expansion of schools through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and the Government’s failure to replace teachers who quit.
An assessment by TSC’s staffing department shows 8, 000 new primary schools, and 2, 586 secondary schools have been established since the introduction of CDF in 2003.
Head teachers have also blamed the uncontrolled expansion of educational institution for exacerbating the problem. Head teachers also say staffing is being mismanaged.
The Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (KSSHA) is compiling a report on how the shortage is undermining education.
"It is the big schools that are on the losing end, since senior teachers are being poached to head them, thereby starving other schools," said Cleophas Tirop, the national KSSHA chairman.
Tirop said the association is proposing that many schools with few students, and which are close to each other, be merged to ensure effective deployment of teachers.
He decried the fact that registration of schools has been left to politicians and communities, without the involvement of TSC.
"In future schools should be registered on a needs basis," he said.
The freeze on employment of teachers, he said, has resulted in a generation gap, and lack of interest in pursuing degrees in education at universities.
In the last financial year, the Government set aside Sh1.6 billion to recruit intern teachers. But hopes for recruiting over 12, 600 new teachers this year were dashed, after a standoff between the Government and the teachers’ unions.