School heads could soon have term limits

Basic Education Principal Secretary, Belio Kipsang. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Primary and secondary school heads may soon serve for a specific period of time if a new proposal by players in the education sector is adopted and implemented.

The proposal argues that school heads - just like other heads of government institutions - are chief executives managing public funds, and should serve term limits renewable based on their performance.

Even though the specific period of service was not floated, the proposal by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) means that the more than 30,000 heads may have contracts to lead schools with expiry dates.

This would be a marked departure from the present where heads only get into performance contracts with the employer but still serve until their retirement.

A similar proposal was made in 2014 when Prof Jacob Kaimenyi served as the Cabinet secretary in charge of education.

In proposals to develop Basic Education Regulations (2014), Prof Kaimenyi’s team wanted school heads to serve for a maximum of 15 years.

The plan was to have them serve three terms of five years each. This proposal was, however, dropped and never made it to the regulations passed in 2015.

Machogu has, however, revived a proposal to appoint heads as agents of the ministry, granting the Cabinet secretary in charge of education powers to punish those who mismanage public funds under their control.

“The Principal Secretary of the State Department responsible for Basic Education shall retain the discretion of exercising any power delegated to the agent,” reads the proposal.

Even though the details are still not clear on what would happen in the event the ministry withdraws agency from a school head, sector players argued that the PS may give agency to another person for the purposes of managing the funds.

The idea was floated at an education stakeholders meeting chaired by Basic Education Principal Secretary, Belio Kipsang, to discuss various proposed amendments to laws governing the education sector.

The proposal on term limits was part of memoranda presented for consideration in the fine-tuning of the Basic Education Bill 2024 at the Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) on Friday.

The meeting, convened by the Education CS, also received memoranda on proposed amendments to 10 other education sector laws.

School heads may soon serve for a specific period of time. [iStockphoto]

They include the Universities Bill, the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Bill, the Kenya National Qualifications Framework Bill and the Tertiary Education Placement and Funding Bill.

Amendments to the Kenya Literature Bureau Bill, Kenya National Examinations Council Bill, and Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development Bill have also been fronted.

Other proposed legislation are the Education Appeals Tribunal Bill, the Basic Education Scholarships And Bursaries Bill and the Science Technology and Innovation Bill.

What will, however, stir debate is a proposal by the ministry to issue agency contracts to school heads.

Kenya Union of Post-primary Education Teachers has already supported the proposal, terming it necessary.

Union Secretary General Akelo Misori said the law is silent on the role of heads as agents of the ministry, even though they control finance provided by the ministry. “It is necessary to have this in law,” said Misori.

If adopted, primary and secondary school heads will be double agents and will report to both the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Education.

TSC will be responsible for hiring the school heads but the teachers will also get an appointment letter from the ministry to act as agents in matters of finance.

‘‘The institutional administrator appointed shall be responsible for the day-to-day management of the school, act as an accounting officer and authorised officer and shall act as an agent of the Principal Secretary of the State Department responsible for Basic Education about the management of the school,’’ reads the Basic Education Bill, 2024.

Anchoring this in law will mean that the ministry is stamping its authority in the control of school funds.

‘‘The appointment of the institutional administrator as an agent shall be made in writing… The Principal Secretary shall retain the discretion of exercising any power delegated to the agent,’’ the proposal reads.

Withdrawal of the letter will mean the headteacher is effectively deprived of the power to account for monies sent to the school.

Powers to take action on a principals has been a source of push and pull between TSC and the ministry.