Let’s Close The Teachers’ Gap, Once And For All
The Government plans to hire 11,000 teachers to fill the 5,682 vacancies in primary and another 5,493 posts in tertiary institutions to replace those who have retired, resigned or died.
According to the TSC boss Gabriel Kimoroko Oleingobon, Kakamega county — with 355 slots —will recruit the highest number of primary school teachers which is a mere fraction of the 2,404 required. Mombasa county will hire the least—only five teachers! Critics of the plan claim that no employment has been done in Kenya since 1997 but replacement of teachers who leave through natural attrition or resignations. The government has in the last nine years employed over 60,000 teachers to fill this gap.
The hiring of the 11,000 teachers will still leave schools with a shortage of another 29,000 teachers. It might mitigate against the current shortage but is definitely not a permanent solution. It is worth noting that the government has yet to hire the early childhood development (ECD) teachers which it pledged to do when the Kibaki administration came into power in 2002.
This year's budget Finance minister Robinson Githae allotted ECD including pre-primary teachers Sh1.8 billion and Sh1.6 billion for building classes, physical facilities in primary and secondary in line with vision 2030. The hiring of the 20,000 ECD teachers was not factored in the budget thereby dashing any hopes about the future of the sector.
The teachers union, KNUT says 139,000 more teachers are urgently needed.It is also opposed to the piecemeal hiring of teachers and believes the government should hire 20,000 teachers per year to ease the shortfall. Currently, there are 19,360 primary schools and 6,178 secondary schools that require a total of 333,480 teachers.
Hiring teachers in bits can be equated to a matutu owner who gives his or her driver less fuel to cover the entire journey expecting the same driver to economize the fuel with a view to successfully cover the safari. A similar situation applies to the ongoing biting of shortages of teachers whereby some schools opts to hire half baked staff to mitigate the challenge.
The current shortages were caused in 1997 when the then Finance minister Simeon Nyachae slapped a three year moratorium on hiring teachers claiming the government was broke. Since then, teachers have been hired in bits according to available vacancies and the Treasury's ability to pay them. The worst affected are schools in arid and semi-arid areas which suffer from insecurity and poor infrastructure. The introduction of free primary and secondary education has pushed the teacher-pupil ratio at between 1:70-1:120 in primary and 1:45 in secondary schools up from 25.
The Aids pandemic has also not spared the teachers. According Education ministry sources, an average of four teachers die of the disease on a daily basis which exacerbates the situation further. Teachers brain-drain— where teachers opt to change professions has seen schools lose an average of 6,000 per years, according to a 2010 report by Kenya Secondary Schools Association chair,Cleophas Tirop.
Acccording to a UNESCO report , the number of teachers quitting the profession for other jobs in the labor market is between 7,000 and 11,000 annually. The government should quickly address the issue of teacher shortages if it wants to achieve the goals set out in its Vision 2030. It should also consider introducing e-learning and multigrading methods of teaching, among other innovations.
ONWONGA YABESH writes on topical issues.