Teacher shortage in public schools is real, enormous and growing - in actual fact, teacher deficit is worse than the government's projections.
In the 2019/23 Strategic Plan, Teachers Service Commission (TSC) estimated a teacher shortage of 99,081 (2019); 98,448 (2020); 97,826 (2021); 97,214 (2022) and 96,612 (2023).
The shortage was attributed to rapid growth in school enrolment, establishment of new schools and expansion of existing institutions. The government's policy of 100 per cent pupil transition from primary to secondary school also contributed to teacher shortfall.
Contrary to the commission's projections, the actual teacher deficit in government schools is over 120,000 - the figure is steadily growing because of lack of regular hiring of adequate teachers, despite the country having more than 350,000 trained but unemployed teachers.
Despite several interventions to achieve teacher balance and rationalisation across the country, still there are disparities in the distribution and utilisation of the 317,069 teachers in TSC's employment.
The staffing imbalance is a result of a combination of factors, including insecurity in certain regions, preferences by teachers for urban and high potential areas, unwillingness of teachers to be separated from their families, hostile environment, medical issues, and in some instances, establishment of unviable schools.
As a matter of fact, the commission has experienced a high turnover of teachers in specific subject areas such as ICT that are in high demand because of failure to hire enough teachers. The imbalance in teacher distribution has not only undermined the principle of access and equity, but also the delivery of quality education to over 15 million learners in public schools.
The Commission has been employing 10,000 teachers yearly. This is a drop in the ocean in regard to millions of learners yearning to access equitable quality education. The long-and-short of it is, shortage of teachers has harmed learners, teachers and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient teachers is ruining pupils/students' ability to learn and reduces teachers' effectiveness.
Thus, the incoming government will have to allocate enough funds for teacher recruitment to address the perennial teacher shortage. In the 2022/23 Financial Year, the National Treasury allocated TSC Sh2.5 billion for recruitment of 5,000 teachers on permanent terms. Another Sh1.2 billion was allocated to recruit 6,000 interns as a stop-gap measure to ease the shortage. The allotment is extremely low.
Since access to equitable quality education is every child's right, the next government has zero choice but to address the nagging teacher shortage if the country is to meet the 2030 Education Agenda.
The writer is an expert in education, leadership and policy