Students and parents caught up in CS Amina, TSC turf wars

Cabinet Secretary for Education Amina Mohamed (from left) with Lydia Nzomo,Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Chairperson and TSC CEO Nancy Macharia during the TSC's 50th Anniversary celebrations at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC). [Elvis Ogina.Standard]
Anxiety has hit students and teachers training colleges as the Ministry of Education and the teachers’ employer differ over new admission guidelines.

Saturday Standard has established that thousands of students had already been admitted to private and public TTC’s after Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed gazetted the new entry requirement.

The students are victims of a terse legal fight between the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and the ministry after the Attorney General dismissed the actions of the CS.

Minimum requirements

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Last month, Amina gazetted the Kenya National Qualifications Authority Standards that set C– (minus) as the minimum diploma entry grade and D (plain) for certificate courses.

Currently, the minimum entry grade to certificate training is C and a C+ for diploma colleges. Principals of the TTCs who spoke Friday said the students were admitted legally after the guidelines became law last month.

“We acted legally. And if things change, we are not to blame because fees had been paid and students admitted to classes,” a principal of a public TTC said.

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A parent whose daughter was admitted to a private college based on revised grades said they are worried because of the turn of events.

“The ministry must come out clearly to talk to us because we took our children to colleges based on their decision,” said the parent who only identified himself as Ngatia. Amina had allowed primary colleges to admit candidates with a mean grade of D in 2018 as she unveiled new affirmative action rules that relaxed admission requirements of teacher training colleges for candidates from 17 counties. 

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“In the spirit of the provisions of the law and following the Kenya National Qualification Authority (KNQA), the entry point to primary and diploma colleges is hereby lowered from the date of letter until otherwise advised,” said Amina, in communication dated October 15.

It emerged Friday that the letter by Amina to Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service lowering entry grade prompted a mass admission to the colleges.

The ministry remained mum over the development that left top officials embarrassed.

In a tough advisory letter to TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia, AG Kihara Kariuki said Amina erred in her decision to gazette minimum standards set by the KNQA.

“The Cabinet Secretary cannot purport to exercise the power under Section 29 of the KNQA Act, to perform a function that does not form part of the purpose of the KNQA Act,” said Kariuki in a letter dated November 26.

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Unconstitutional move

Kariuki said there is no law that vests the Cabinet Secretary or the KNQA with the power to set such standards, adding that were it to be there, it would be unconstitutional and therefore null and void.

“In this regard therefore, as far as setting of the minimum academic entry requirements for persons entering the teaching service is concerned, the buck stops with the commission,” said Kariuki.

The legal advise by the AG has boldened the resolve by TSC to lock out candidates who would be admitted to TTCs on the revised low grades.

TSC protested the decision, saying ‘lowering the entry grade is a serious affront to national development and may be a recipe for failed future economy.’

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In a letter to the KNQA Director General Juma Mukhwaya, Dr Macharia said such teachers will not be registered upon their graduation.

“The upshot is that should persons with lower qualifications opt to train as teachers, they face the danger of not being registered by the commission on account of non-compliance with set standards,” Mrs Macharia said.

Dr Mukhwana Friday steered clear of the matter. “I will not comment on the matter now,” he said.

The new twist in teacher training standards emerged after Macharia on November 14, wrote to the AG seeking clarification on who between TSCand the minister had the powers to set minimum academic qualifications for those who wanted to be trained as teachers.

This was not the first time TSC has fought attempts by the ministry to usurp some of its roles.

In 2014, it fought to maintain its independence, as relevant arms of government united to contest its core function of teachers’ management.

If allowed, TSC would have lost control of the head teachers.  

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Ministry of EducationTTCTSCEducation Cabinet Secretary Amina MohammedTeachers Service Commission