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Proposed reforms and what they mean for the education sector

Opinion
 President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua read through an interim report by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms at State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

The government is committed to provide education and lifelong learning to all, and has put in place measures to address access, quality, relevance and equity in line with constitutional and statutory imperatives as well as international and regional obligations as espoused in the SDG 4.

The main impediment to realisation of equitable quality education and lifelong learning is shortage of teachers in public schools across the country. Teacher deficit compromises delivery of equitable quality education. Lack of sufficient teachers threatens pupils/students’ ability to learn and reduces teachers’ effectiveness. Shortage of teachers leads to bloated workload for those in the teaching service.

Training thousands of teachers who are not absorbed in the system consumes resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. On June 12, 2023, Teachers Service Commission (TSC) revealed, in a document presented to Parliament, that the country was experiencing a severe teacher shortage, estimated at 272,545 teachers. TSC data further reveal that 3,359 public schools do not have head teachers. Some 1,918 public primary schools do not have head teachers while 1,441 secondary schools do not have principals.

Leadership crisis due to lack of head teachers in primary and secondary schools has had a huge impact on quality teaching. There is low morale and productivity among teachers, which in some cases has crippled learning in the affected institutions. TSC readily admits that some tutors who have attained qualifications of head teachers, but still serve as classroom teachers.

The biting teacher shortfall is occurring when the government is rolling out critical reforms in the education sector, including the implementation of CBC, enhanced learners’ enrolment and implementation of the 100 per cent transition policy.

The Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms findings indicate that public primary schools have 223,296 teachers, but need up to 267,792 teachers. This means there is a deficit of 44,496 teachers. It further reveals that there are some 9,246 secondary schools in the country with a total of 123,985 teachers, yet they need 182,566. This means the institutions suffer a shortfall of 58,581 teachers.

TSC puts the teacher shortage at 111,870 tutors. It is on this basis that the commission requested an additional Sh78 billion to hire more teachers in the next five. All in all, it should be noted that the shortfall of teachers has been occasioned by an increase in the number of learners in basic education, 100 per cent transition policy and free day secondary education.

The TSC as established under Article 237(1) of the Constitution is mandated to register, recruit and employ registered teachers. The Commission also assigns teachers to public schools, promotes, transfers, deploys, disciplines teachers and terminate their employment, among other roles and responsibilities outlined in the Constitution. Currently TSC is the employer and regulator. Under the proposed changes the Commission will lose this mandate following the establishment of regulatory body; Kenya Professional Teaching Standards.

The Commission quality assures its functions, programmes and other teachers’ activities. This role will be surrendered to the Directorate of Quality Assurance and Standards in the Ministry of Education. School heads are answerable to TSC, but under the proposed changes, they will be answerable to the Ministry of Education.

TSC handles retraining of CBC teachers. This function has been assigned to the Ministry of Education. The Commission handles transfers and deployment but according to the proposals by the Presidential Working Party, TSC will have to consult the ministry before any transfer or deployment is made. The Commission procures health insurance scheme for teachers and secretariat staff. The ministry will now be involved in the procurement process if the proposals are effected.

TSC handles teachers’ disciplinary/appeal matters. The proposals call for the creation of Education Appeal Tribunal to handle disciplinary matters. The Commission exclusively handles teacher promotions; TSC will now consult the ministry before any promotions are effected. Teacher Professional Development has been a function of TSC. The Commission will relinquish this function to Ministry of Education which will take over TPD and Career Progression of teachers in entirety.

The Commission, however, has to work in close collaboration with line-government departments and agencies to realise its mission, vision and core values.

Thousands of non-graduate primary school head teachers will be demoted if proposals of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms are implemented. Under the proposed guidelines, head teachers of primary schools hosting Junior Secondary School (JSS) must be university graduates. Head teachers who will not qualify for headship of comprehensive schools will be demoted.

The Proposals by the Presidential Working Party that non-graduate head teachers should be demoted are in total disregard of the statutory provisions in the Career Progression Guidelines (CPG). CPG were developed to guide the career growth of teachers employed by TSC. CPG are to guide the recruitment, retention, development, training and promotion of teachers to ensure they meet the set standards.

CPG replaced the three Schemes of Service for the Teaching Service (2005) hence, are legal documents which cannot be wished away by proposals as they are an integral part of the Code of Regulations for Teachers which is enshrined in the TSC Act (2012).

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