It is a momentous period for Kenyans to re-examine the education system with the aim of compelling the National Government to provide equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all.
The Education Reforms Task force is now in motion with a clear-cut mandate which include the study of all laws governing the basic education sub-sector and making recommendations for review of the legislations with a view to addressing duplication, ambiguities and improving linkages.
For that reason, premium has to be placed on Article 53(1)(b) of the Constitution which states that every child has a right to free and compulsory basic education; and Article 55(a) which states that the State shall take measures, including affirmative action programmes to ensure that the youths access relevant education and training.
To achieve these aspirations and the specified targets, the task force will have to re-evaluate and redefine Teachers Service Commission Act (2012) and the Basic Education Act (2013), and appropriately make consequential changes on the laws governing education.
To begin with, TSC has to be split to create a separate body to serve as the teacher employer, and a professional body to serve as the teachers' regulator.
General interests of teachers
The Education Reforms Task force should re-examine and assess the Constitution (2010) and the enabling Acts, and make recommendations on the need to review the law on education, with the view to creating a teacher regulatory body.
The task force should specifically relook at TSC Act which allows the Commission to perform the duties of both a regulator and employer.
The regulator, probably to be called Teaching Council of Kenya should be charged with specific functions that include: Registration of teachers; developing and reviewing the Code of Conduct and Regulations for Teachers; disciplining errant teachers; regulating professional conduct of teachers and promoting, protecting and advancing the general interests of teachers.
Its functions should also be collaborating with unions to set terms and conditions of service for teachers; investigating allegations of professional misconduct and imposing such sanctions as may be necessary and advising the government on matters relating to the teaching profession. The professional body should also accredit teacher training colleges and faculties of education in universities.
It should also facilitate career progression and professional development for teachers and more importantly, monitor quality control and assurance of education facilities and services.
The Council (regulatory body) should consist of part-time members appointed by the CS for Education after thorough vetting. They should include representatives of the Ministry of Education, public higher education institutions, private higher education institutions, public and private education institutions and TSC.
Other members should be from Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development; CEMESTEA; teacher unions; Kenya Institute of Special Education; National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya; Law Society of Kenya, Kenya Education Management Institute; Kenya National Examination Council; Kenya School Equipment Scheme, Kenya Primary School Heads Association, Kenya Secondary School Heads Association and National Parents Association.
TSC should be confined to employing and managing teachers - to formulate policies to achieve its mandate; recruit and employ registered teachers; assign teachers employed by the commission; promote and transfer teachers; terminate the employment of teachers; review the demand for and the supply of teachers and manage the payroll of teachers.
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Article 237 which established TSC does not give the commission powers to regulate teachers, moreover, it does not confer TSC with the function of quality assurance and standards. Training and capacity building which include Teacher Professional Development is a function of the Ministry of Education.
Disobeying the courts
The independent status of TSC which the current office has abused on numerous occasions is founded on Chapter 15 of the Constitution. However, it should be noted that the constitutional status of TSC was a political decision rather than a professional resolution and commitment.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) proposed that TSC be made independent of the Ministry of Education for the commission to mobilise teachers to vote YES in referendum of the Constitution in 2010. The architects of the Constitution had not envisioned the current legal status of TSC in their original thinking.
The leadership of TSC has misconstrued its constitutional status to mean that it has nothing to do with the Ministry of Education or any organisation which has led to perennial clashes with ministry officials, leaderships of trade unions, parliamentary committee on education, and even disobeying the courts.
The commission has interpreted its mandate so generously and has encroached on the constitutional and legal mandate of the Ministry of Education and labour unions. Section II of TSC Act and various sections of the TSC Code of Regulations for Teachers encroached on the powers and functions of the CS for Education.
TSC has virtually taken over the management of public primary and secondary schools - it is more tragic that TSC has also taken over the quality assurance and standards functions in these institutions. This is regrettable because as the employer, it cannot exercise the quality assurance and standards in schools.
TSC single-handedly reviewed the Recognition Agreements signed with teacher unions and has now taken over the running of trade movements which is in violation of Labour Relations Act and Bill of Rights.
The writer is an expert in education, leadership and policy