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How to solve teachers problem in Northern counties

COMMENTARY
By Mohamed Guleid | March 29th 2018
Students, parents and school heads demonstrate in Wajir over mass exodus of teachers in the county. [Feisal Abdirahman,Standard]

Last week I was invited by North Eastern Province University Students Association (NEPUSA) to Garissa County to give a talk to about 2000 form four students on career and guidance.

An event organised at the Garissa University as symbol of defiance to the terrorists who attacked the University two years ago killing more than 150 students, mostly non-locals. On arrival in Garissa town, from my expectation, I thought maybe very few non-locals were still living and working in Garissa.

This is after the hullabaloo created by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) in relation to how unsafe it is for non-local teachers to work in counties in the Northern part of Kenya.

To my surprise, having arrived past midnight in Garissa, I found the town bustling with activity. A large number of the people I found on the streets were non-locals involved in various trades. Most of the Boda-Boda operatives, artisans, hotel staff and taxi operators are non-locals.

For me it was perplexing to see the contradictions. Listening to the noise from KNUT, and the reality on the ground are totally different. From my observation, close to 10 percent of the population of Garissa town are non-locals, mainly the Kamba community from the neighbouring Kitui. I observed tolerance and a sense of cohesion.

Boycott

To my surprise again, I heard most of the teachers at the private schools in Garissa township alone- there are 46 private schools, against 26 public schools- are people from outside the county. One therefore wonders what fears teachers in public schools have that those teaching in private schools don’t.

I understand at some point terrorists killed and maimed people working in the former North Eastern Province, but who hail from other parts of the country. The Al-Shabaab kills and maims security officers regardless of where they come from.

In fact, they will kill anyone depending on the location. Their objective is to cause a rift between local people in North Eastern and non-locals. But they are not really doing it in the name of Islam. If Islam is the reason, why did they then massacre close to 700 people in Mogadishu in just one day last year? All the people who died in that attack were Somalis and Muslim. The Al-Shabaab kills hundreds of Somalis every month in Somalia. Even within our country, they kill anyone.

Coming back to the challenges about teachers, I heard several complains from the local people regarding the decision by the TSC to withdraw non-local teaching staff who form part of the bulk of teachers.

In the first place, there is a feeling that TSC is exploiting the crisis created by the insecurity. This is how it is done; whenever teachers are withdrawn due to insecurity, the TSC immediately puts an advert for recruitment of teachers and this cycle continues.

Some people claim this is a way of creating jobs for people from outside the region only to transfer them again when incidences of insecurity happen.

Disinterest

One challenge facing the people of the North Eastern counties is that students from the area who are qualified do not like to join the teaching profession.

During the conference at the Garissa university for form four students, one of the facilitators asked the students how many of them wanted to become teachers. Only a handful raised their hands.

This indicates the appetite for the youngsters to enrol at the teacher training institutions is very low.

The situation is made worse by a recent circular by former Cabinet Secretary for Education Fred Matiangi forbidding untrained people from teaching. I hope Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed can rescind that decision.

Previously when such misfortunes as the terror attacks happened, most schools in Northern Kenya requested support from untrained teachers.

The Member of Parliament for Dadaab constituency, Dr Dahiye, said in his constituency, of the nearly 200 kids who sat their KCSE last year, only one managed to attain the grades for enrolment in a university.

Majority of those students scored D’s in their exam and are now at home. The MP suggested that maybe it is time to reintroduce the grading system for at least primary school teachers.

In the past, and myself having been a beneficiary of that system, we had P1 up to P4 teachers. In essence, anyone with a form four certificate could become a teacher.

A reintroduction of that system can help young people in the Northern part of the country get recruited as teachers and reduce unemployment.  

Mr. Guleid is a Governance Consultant

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