Ministry draws plans to put school heads on contract

Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion with chairman Mudzo Nzili address the Press on the conflict pitting the Education Ministry and the Teachers Service Commission in Nairobi, Tuesday. [PHOTO: WILLIS AWANDU/STANDARD]

The Government is courting a clash with teachers over plans to hire secondary school heads on five-year contracts, if proposals by the Ministry of Education are implemented.

The recommended changes are in a document seen by The Standard, which also recommends that no head teacher should serve in a school for more than 15 years.

"A person appointed as an agent shall hold this position for a term offive years, but shall be eligible for reappointment for a second and final third term of five years," reads the document.

It also says: "Cumulatively, no person shall hold this position for more than 15 years."

The Education Cabinet Secretary will immediately appoint a replacement where the head teacher is interdicted or dismissed.

The recommendations are in the draft Basic Education Regulation 2014 by the Ministry of Education. The Standard has established that the ministry yesterday hosted all 47 county directors of education and various heads of semi-autonomous Government agencies to discuss the document.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) yesterday claimed that the proposals are part of a bigger scheme by senior ministry officials to weaken the Teachers Service Commission (TSC). Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion said the law mandates only TSC to recruit, manage, promote and discipline all teachers and termed the proposals mischievous.

He claimed they would allow anyone to head a secondary school and create chaos in the education sector.

"The Cabinet Secretary shall delegate the management of a public institution of basic education and training to a person in writing as an agent," says the document, which confers to such a person the powers of an accounting officer, lead educator and team leader for implementation of the ministry's policies and programmes in the institution.

Sossion said the "person" in the regulations is not defined and asked the ministry to keep off teacher management issues. The ministry proposes that for a person to be appointed an agent, he/she must either be a practicing teacher registered with TSC or a serving quality assurance or education or curriculum development assessor.

"We cannot allow anybody to be a school principal because this means the Cabinet Secretary (for Education) will appoint anybody, even quacks," said Sossion.

A key qualification set by the ministry in the document is that the person must have undertaken at least a six-week course in education administration or its equivalent in the previous three years before appointment.

A source attending the meeting at the Ministry of Education to discuss the regulations, and who asked not to be named due to Government communication protocols, termed it stormy.

"The proposals contained in that document cannot be accepted by teachers," said the official.

Sossion said teachers will fight to ensure TSC plays its key role of managing all teachers including principals.

"These recommendations can only be implemented outside this country," he said.

Sossion said the ministry is using the National Education Board (NEB) to frustrate TSC.

"All these are happening because someone has deliberately delayed recruitment of TSC commissioners. We have given them seven days failure to which we shall go on strike," said the Knut boss.

Another document seen by The Standard set TSC and the ministry on a vicious power struggle over the control of over 288,000 teachers. The letter written by NEB chairman Erastus Kiugu to Attorney General Githu Muigai says TSC does not have the legal mandate on quality assurance.

"...TSC is mandated to carry out the functions of teacher management only, which includes ensuring the quality of teachers at entry into teaching service," the letter dated June 19 reads in part.

Kiugu claimed TSC seemed to perform functions that were "overlapping and conflicting".

The letter was copied to Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi and his Principal Secretary Bellio Kipsang, the Chairman of the Constitution for Implementation of the Constitution Charles Nyachae and his Transition Authority counterpart Kiunuthia Wamwangi.

Also of concern to NEB are recruitment and registration of nursery school teachers and the sour relations between the ministry and TSC County Directors.

Kiugu said matters of teachers' discipline cannot be left to TSC alone, citing section 18 of the Basic Education Act that spells out the functions of the County Education boards.