The push for contract employment proposal as directed by former Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i for university staff has slowed down.
Yesterday, it emerged that the new directive, which was to affect support staff and part of the academic workforce in public universities, may take longer to roll out.
With the policy shift, some staff would be required to retire as the government adopts contractual tenure regime. The new policy was to be rolled out this year.
This means starting this year, universities will be banned from recruiting new staff on permanent and pensionable basis. This, the National Treasury said, was untenable.
There are about 28,000 workers in Kenya’s public universities currently.
Under the directive, academic staff such as tutorial fellows/assistant lecturers and lecturers are to be hired on contract basis.
School and College has now established that the exit of Dr Matiang’i from the Education docket has slowed down the process, effectively giving a lifeline to thousands of staff.
Commission for University Education (CUE) yesterday asked for more time to roll out contract employment and pleaded with university staff not to panic.
CUE Chairperson Chacha Nyaigoti said implementing the new policy would require more time for consultation and crafting of a roll out strategy.
“Staff should not panic. It is important that when we decide on this, it will be done by the current Cabinet Secretary... the starting point is to appraise them first,” said Prof Chacha.
He said the CUE will brief new Education CS Amina Mohamed and her team on this policy.
“We are going to appraise the new team at Jogoo House and take them through this policy shift for them to understand what it is before they direct us on the next line of action,” he said.
University staff, he said, are already enjoying terms under the Law and Employment Act. “If we want to change that then we must involve all actors,” he said.
The CUE boss said in the meantime, university councils and management are being engaged on the tenure system.
“It does not serve anybody’s interest to implement policies in a hurry. Let us understand clearly what tenure track entails, compare the benefits and challenges with what we are practising,” he said.
There are many different types of university staff, most of whom were employed through different approaches.
For instance, Chacha said, there are universities that were previously technical colleges and had ministry staff seconded there.
The Technical University of Kenya and Technical University of Mombasa inherited staff from former colleges who are no longer teaching, yet drawing salaries.
“If we now want these universities to run on a particular way, before we grow this policy, we must have a structured arrangement and we do not want to cause panic,” said Prof Chacha.
Last year, it emerged that some universities had hired more staff that they can sustain, pushing the institutions into perpetual crisis.
In one university, the ratio of technical and non-technical staff is 1:58, which was said to be very high.
“The exchequer can no longer afford this. Chairs of couwncil must do a thorough audit of staff establishment. Ask whom do you need especially among the technical staff,” Matiang’i said last last year.
CUE also said a significant portion of staff will soon retire.
“There are some approaching retirement age but have never had any PhD, yet they were employed under permanent and pensionable terms,” said Chacha.
He said the commission is expecting the support of all workers and that the shift requires a study to unveil best practices.
“If we want to succeed, we also need to hear from the people who will be affected by this change to also appreciate why the policy shift is necessary and how it will be beneficial to them so that they don’t revel about it,” he said.
CUE is already laying ground, he said.
“We are now preparing a document that will inform the ministry and institutions on how we can institutionalise tenure,” Chacha said. “We are looking at it as a policy framework that requires a structured implementation process”.
CUE is developing a document with input from councils and university management because they manage the lecturers and workers.