About 305,000 teachers are facing transfers following President Uhuru Kenyatta's directive on reallocation of existing staff to ensure equitable distribution across the country.
The Head of State said some schools have more teachers than they require while others do not have adequate staff.
In a speech read by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i during the annual Kenya Secondary School Heads Association meeting in Mombasa, Uhuru said the Government had not done well in teacher distribution, leading to under-staffing and over-staffing in some areas.
"I direct the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to rationalise teacher distribution in all counties so as to avail teachers to those currently disadvantaged," Uhuru said. Teacher deployment in public schools is made on the account of Curriculum Based Establishment (CBE).
This means schools with more teachers will have their staff cut to acceptable levels. There has been a major outcry over adequate utilisation of teachers with some education players calling for proper balance across the country.
The pupil-teacher ratio is largely skewed in many schools, with reports that teachers prefer schools located in towns.
"Teachers refuse to be posted to arid and semi-arid areas. They also decline to be posted to hardship areas, often opting for towns and easily accessible stations," said Emmanuel Manyasa, Uwezo Kenya country manager.
A senior TSC official said rationalisation is a continuous process. "We do this during teacher recruitment, transfers are also done and so it is a continuous process," said the official who did not want to comment on the issue after the President's directive.
Data presented to Parliament by Dr Matiang'i last year revealed only six counties were fully staffed and did not require additional primary school teachers.
The data tabled before the House Education Committee revealed primary schools in Kiambu, Kisii, Murang'a, Nyamira and Nyeri were adequately staffed.
The six counties had a total of 2,574 schools and recorded zero shortage. They had a total of 31,366 teachers in primary schools.
Embu County, which has 372 schools, has 3,754 teachers. The county only requires seven primary school teachers to bridge its gap, according to the data.
Kitui County, however, has the highest primary teacher shortage at 2,562. The county, which has 1,221 primary schools, has a total of 8,525 primary teachers.
Kakamega, which has 754 schools, has the second highest deficit of 2,442 as Narok, with 573 schools, recorded a deficit of 2,338 teachers.
Other counties that had a high teacher deficit in primary schools included Homa Bay (2,182), Turkana (2,127), Nakuru (1,835), Kilifi (1,713), Siaya (1,626), West Pokot (1,671), Migori (1,659), Kwale (1,235), Bomet and Bungoma (1408 each), Kisumu (1,188), Nandi (1,129), Kajiado (1,095) and Mandera (1,023). The rest of the counties recorded a shortage of less than 1,000 teachers for primary schools.
The need for teacher rationalisation is also corroborated by findings of another Government report handed to Uhuru in 2014 that called for immediate redistribution of teachers.
The education team chaired by educationist Kilemi Mwiria proposed that TSC should conduct a thorough audit of its current staff and ensure all teachers on Government payroll are effectively utilised.
The report recommended that teachers be employed locally but deployed to serve across the country.
"Develop a clear policy of deployment of teachers to eliminate cases of posting teachers in their home districts and discourage meritocracy," reads the report.
The report proposed that secondary school teachers should handle a minimum of 32 lessons of 40 minutes per week, translating to 22 hours per week in line with the proposed TSC staffing norms.
"TSC should allocate teachers on the basis of enrolment and curriculum being offered in a school," reads the report.
The team proposed that an exhaustive balancing exercise be done on the basis of enrolment and curriculum-based establishment.
Another Government report, the Basic Education Statistical Booklet, (2014) said the overall number of teachers in public primary schools stood at 317,477 and ruled out teacher shortage. Of these, 201,622 are on TSC payroll, with the remaining 40,449 being under school boards' payroll, says the report.
And in secondary schools, the report said there were some 118,608 teachers. Of these, some 72,194 were on TSC payroll, with 35,524 in the boards' payroll.
"The pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) at secondary level stood at 19.5. The public schools' PTR was 5.7 points higher than private schools'," reads the report.
TSC data released this year said there were some 305,000 teachers on Government payroll.
The commission said in its five-year strategic plan that teacher deficit stood at 92,000 last year. It projects that by 2019, the gap will have risen to 116,513.
In his speech, Uhuru said the Government would continue allocating funds for employment of teachers in both primary and secondary schools annually to cater for natural attrition and shortages.
"My administration has allocated funds for recruitment of 5,000 teachers across the 47 counties to address current shortage of teachers. Some 2,205 and 2,795 teachers will be posted in primary, secondary/post-secondary institutions respectively," he said.
Uhuru said the Government's objective was to ensure equitable and affordable education.