Why many teachers no longer want to become school heads

Not all geographical areas in Kenya have teachers who qualify to head schools. [iStockphoto]a

Teachers have always wanted to rise to the highest levels of not only teaching, but also management of education.

Management of education in Kenya and the world is primarily practiced at the level of administration in schools such as head teachers/principals, deputy head teachers/deputy principals and heads of departments. These positions went with pride and achievement as they were marks of excellence.

As time goes by, responsibilities that go with the positions of administration are getting broader, from mere educational administrative functions to being responsible for managing the school environment and making sure that everything is running smoothly; such as accounting functions, guiding and counselling functions, security, safety, hygiene and medical services to learners.

With the introduction of free primary and subsidised secondary education, challenges of managing resources in schools are emerging with several schools falling short of the requisite personnel to run specific professional management tasks. This comes as it emerges that the Ministry of Education was unhappy in 2015 as it lacked control of the over 38,000 school heads in public schools both primary and secondary, which receives billions of shillings for capitation annually from the government.

The government, therefore, made a proposal to hire personnel who would be referred to as school managers. A manager in this case was defined as a person with the requisite qualifications appointed by the Cabinet Secretary of Education to oversee the management of education resources and implementation of policies and guidelines in basic education institutions but not necessarily a teacher.

TSC CEO, Dr Nancy Njeri Macharia. [File, Standard]

The Education Act presently defines a manager as a person who has been appointed by the Cabinet Secretary in consultation with the proprietor through regulations to coordinate and oversee the implementation of education policies and guidelines in non-public basic education institutions and performs delegated teacher management functions.

This 2018 proposal on appointing managers for public schools was opposed by teachers' unions, with Knut coming up with a supplementary proposal that government should establish a policy for school administrators, especially in primary schools to hire specialised professionals such as accountants, psychologists and sports coaches to help in administrative functions.

These functions are becoming stubborn for administrators and a constant source of conflict between them and other players in the sector; one of the reasons teachers are not comfortable taking up administrative positions.

On June 12, 2023, The Standard highlighted reasons why teachers do not want to head schools. Top on the list was that not all geographical areas in Kenya have teachers who qualify to head schools; those who qualify from other places are then prone to being taken to hardship areas.

It should be remembered that the draconian delocalisation policy that was repealed in September 2022 led to a drop in performance of many schools, away from causing families to break up. Teachers are therefore afraid that by applying for these positions, they might end up working away from their families.

Other teachers say these promotions are poisoned chalices used to punish teachers perceived to either to be aggressive or stubborn. Any head of institution who feels threatened at work through performance by their juniors and would wish to do away with them always finds ways of disposing of these teachers through such promotions. The heads of institutions have a way in which they communicate with the promoting powers to help them get rid of the looming challenges.


One unique aspect of these fears was established by teachers with special needs; that when they apply and qualify, they are always taken to areas with available vacancies which ends up putting them in difficult working conditions. These teachers have always prayed that they be given a chance to choose where to be posted. There is no provision for a teacher to select a school they want to be staffed to in the revised 2015 Code of Regulations for Teachers.

Delayed disbursement of capitation to schools by government is dragging heads of institutions into early graves. For instance, principals have not been able to pay school workers from February 2023. The same applies to supply of foodstuffs and instructional materials suppliers. It is heads of schools who face the wrath of debtors. We have seen principals going into depression due to debts.

When the situation becomes unbearable due to the gaps caused by the Ministry of Education and the Teachers Service Commission, learners erupt and cause mayhem in schools leading to destruction of property. The powers that be then rush to make conclusions of bad management and end up punishing heads of schools.

Teachers become victims of circumstance. So, look no further for reasons teachers do not want to head schools. The TSC should clean up the policy on promotion and staffing of administrators to make the positions admirable and respected.