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World Bank survey shows how teachers abscond class

By - Standard on Saturday Team | July 20th 2013

By Standard on Saturday Team

KENYA: Children in Kenya are being cheated out of an education because teachers stay away from class for more than half of the school day.

This is the shocking claim made in a new World Bank survey whose findings were released just days before the end of the 23-day strike by public school teachers to demand more money.

The report concludes that what schools need most is better human resource management.

According to a survey of Service Delivery Indicators (SDI) for Kenya, children in public primary schools are taught for only two hours 40 minutes a day, not even half the official teaching day of five hours 40 minutes.

This is because teachers either do not go to work at all or spend most of the day in the school compound doing other things.

“While teachers at public and private schools were likely to show up for work, public school teachers were 50 per cent less likely to be in class teaching,” the report says. “Children in public schools receive an average of 20 days less teaching a term than those in private schools.”

Even when teachers go into the classroom, the survey found, only about one third of them give students value for money.

Quality of lessons

Among public teachers, only 35 per cent showed mastery of the subjects they taught.

“Seniority and years of training did not correlate with higher levels of knowledge.”

This low level of service delivery is expected to have a major effect on the achievement of the country’s development objectives. Other surveys show that most pupils do not learn to read or do basic math at the right age.

The same SDI survey also found only 58 per cent of providers in public health facilities could diagnose four out of five basic conditions (see related story). Up to a third of them were regularly absent from their place of work.

“Although getting children into school and building and equipping clinics is a big step, it is not enough,” says Gayle Martin, who leads the SDI programme across sub-Saharan Africa. “What ultimately matters… is how well students are learning and whether patients get the right treatment.”

There are 10 million children of primary school age in Kenya.

This number is set to rise as thousands more babies are surviving past infancy. This growing population could greatly expand the country’s prosperity. But this is not likely to happen without improvements in the quality of education and health care to turn them into productive citizens.


New SDI data has highlighted the main service delivery weaknesses in schools and clinics.

The findings show Kenya is doing better on the availability of ‘hardware’ like textbooks, equipment and infrastructure than it is on the ‘software’, that is, the level of effort and knowledge among teachers and health providers.

Nearly all health facilities have sanitation, 80 per cent of schools have enough light to read and textbooks per pupils exceeds Kenya’s target of three per pupil.

On the medicines front, drugs for mothers remain a problem with only 58 per cent of these available in public facilities.

“The modest level of effort by teachers and health providers seen in the SDI reflects room for improvement in the management of human resources,” the World Bank researchers say. They point out that over 29 per cent of public health providers, for example, were regularly absent from work.

Vision 2030, the country’s blueprint for economic and human development, makes particular reference to good education and to healthcare for all. World Bank experts say the quality of education and health services will determine whether everybody will share the promise of Vision 2030.

“Education and health services are always hot button issues, with a wide range of views and opinions,” Martin says. “But everyone agrees that public money must deliver good results. And that is what these indicators are for, to help inform the public debate and contribute to better results for everyone.”

Mr Mwangi Kimenyi, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute and Director of the Africa Growth Initiative is upbeat about improved prospects for Kenya in the decade ahead in an age of greater transparency and open data.


“Education and health service delivery indicators reveal that citizens are not getting value for money,” Kimenyi says.

“This is powerful information that civil society and taxpayers can use to demand action on the part of the service providers and officials of the line ministries. Armed with such information, citizens are better able to hold Government and providers to account.”

The main objective of the new SDI initiative, which is an Africa-wide programme, is to generate data on quality service delivery that can then help citizens to hold their government and service providers accountable, and push for change that delivers better results for them.

“Increasing accountability for education and health services is at the heart of the Service Delivery Indicators,” says Ritva Reinikka, Director of Human Development for Africa at the World Bank.

“The data will help governments and service providers take specific actions to deliver better services and to track the impact of reforms across time as the surveys are repeated.”

SDI can also help governments achieve greater efficiency of public spending. “Unless you know where exactly the problem is, you can’t fix it,” Reinikka notes.

“Governments today are often operating within tight budgets that already devote a large share of resources to health and education — so honing in on the issues and spending money more smartly is really critical.”

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