The stage is set for an industrial conflict in the education sector after Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha dismissed demands by the Kenya National Union of Teachers.
Prof Magoha yesterday said the State will neither reverse its policy on procurement of course books nor suspend the National Education Management Information System (Nemis).
He claimed a powerful cartel that used to profit from the old system of buying textbooks was behind the push for abolition of the current centralised system.
“Text books shall continue to be purchased by the good government of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has delegated that duty to the most humble self,” said Magoha.
He also questioned claims by Knut officials that they had extended an olive branch to the government officials, saying “they do not sound like people who had buried the hatchet.”
Addressing the 15th Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) annual delegate conference in Mombasa yesterday, the CS said Nemis will not be suspended.
“Nemis is one of the best mechanism that has aided the ministry to make sure that meagre resources are maximised to benefit the intended pupils,” said Magoha.
He said in the past, unscrupulous school managers included ghost pupils in their registers, leading to loss of funds.
On Tuesday, Knut issued a 22-day ultimatum to the government to convene a meeting to address challenges facing the new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).
Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion warned that if the talks will not be held before Christmas, re-opening of schools in January will be hit by “disruption”.
The union demanded the ministry should suspend the new course book purchase policy and Nemis before the talks.
According to Kepsha Chairman Nicholas Gathemia and Sossion, the centralised distribution model had led to poor quality of course books.
Yesterday, Magoha said he has inspected all text books supplied by the government and that none had errors or were substandard as claimed by the union and Kepsha.
He said all course books for grade three and other lower classes will be supplied ahead of the re-opening of schools.
“We have saved a lot of money because of the centralised procurement system. They should demand that the money saved be used to benefit primary schools,” said the CS.
He said that through the new textbook distribution policy, the government has been able to achieve its 1:1 pupil-text book ratio target in primary schools.
On Nemis, Magoha directed head teachers to make sure that no pupil is sent away from school because they had not been captured by the system.
Dr Belio Kipsang, the Principal Secretary Basic Education, said he had engaged the Ministry of Interior to fast track the issuance of birth certificates for pupils to be registered in the Nemis.
A pupil must produce a birth certificate for him or her to be registered in the Nemis. Those not in the Nemis do not benefit from State capitation.
Yesterday, Dr Kipsang said no pupils would be disadvantaged because he or she has not been issued with the birth certificate saying that was “a government error or mistake.”
“We have the record of the pupils with birth certificates and those without. So we will find a mechanism to make sure that they all get the capitation,” said the PS.
He, however, said capitation for grade three pupils will be delayed until all the learners are captured by the Nemis system.
Magoha said teething problems experienced during the rollout Nemis had been addressed. He said the system had increased transparency and accountability. Head teachers interviewed warned that the posturing by the union and government officials could deteriorate into an industrial action.
Yesterday, it emerged that the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) was determined to push ahead with its delocalisation programme.
Knut is also opposed to the transfers of school head teachers and principal and on Tuesday called on TSC to call for a meeting before it implements the policy.
“The TSC and the CS should hold a meeting with the teachers’ representative before Christmas to avoid disruption of school programmes in January,” said Sossion.