Education Ministry in new push to take control of over 30,000 school heads

Education CS Ezekiel Machogu when he appeared before the Public Investments Committee on Governance and Education at the Parliament buildings in Nairobi on October 11, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Control of more than 30,000 heads of public schools in the country is the new battlefront between the Ministry of Education and the teachers' employer.

In the fresh push, the ministry wants to appoint primary and secondary school heads as its agents in the management of schools, giving the ministry firmer control of school finances.

The push will be part of proposed amendments that will be tabled today for consideration by various education stakeholders as the ministry seeks to amend the Basic Education Act and 10 other laws in the education sector.

Other Bills proposed include The Universities Bill, 2024, the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Bill, 2024, the Kenya National Qualifications Framework (Amendment) Bill, 2024, the Tertiary Education Placement and Funding Bill, the Kenya Literature Bureau (Amendment) Bill, 2024, Kenya National Examinations Council (Amendment) Bill, 2024, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (Amendment) Bill, 2024.

Other proposed legislation are the Education Appeals Tribunal Bill, 2024, the Basic Education Scholarships And Bursaries Bill, 2024, and the Science Technology and Innovation (Amendment) Bill, 2024.

The contentious proposal to appoint heads as its agents, if adopted, will give the Education Cabinet Secretary powers to instruct head teachers to prepare reports and file from time to time.

Every public primary, junior, comprehensive and senior school shall be headed by an institutional administrator duly appointed, as such, under the Teachers Service Commission Act. 

‘‘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 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.

If adopted, it will in effect replace the Basic Education Act of 2013.

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

‘‘The appointment of the institutional administrator as an agent shall be made in writing… The Principal Secretary of the State Department responsible for Basic Education 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 the power to account for monies sent to the school. The proposal is, however, not clear on what happens to such a head teacher.

But sources said the ministry could halt the head’s ability to withdraw or do transactions hence crippling the operations in the institution and that could lead to suspension.

Powers to take action on a principal for mismanagement of funds has been a source of push and pull between TSC and the ministry.

The lack of powers to hold headteachers to account for financial impropriety has especially been a burning point for the Education Ministry which is responsible for the provision of funds to learning institutions.

In May 2020, the then Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha told MPs that he is running the only ministry in the region that does not have control over teachers.

Making submissions before the National Assembly Education Committee, Magoha said: “It is about time you think about it because everybody thinks I am in charge of teachers. I have left the wisdom to you.”

Previously, the Ministry of Education could only forward recommendation of disciplinary action against a head teacher to TSC.

The proposal is the latest attempt to resolve the age-old debate on who is really in control of school heads.

The Ministry of Education had tried to take control of the role in 2015 through proposals to the Basic Education Regulation of 2015 under the then Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi.

Sources privy to the development said that the matter led to the removal of Prof Kaimenyi as the Education CS.

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