Reforms Team: All Boarding Schools to be Scrapped Except National Schools
Boarding primary and secondary schools are likely to be abolished as early as next year if proposals made by the presidential task force on education are adopted and implemented. The team has also recommended far reaching changes that could whittle down the powers of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).
Should that work out, the Ministry of Education would be granted the mandate to manage day to day operations of schools such as disciplinary and quality standards while TSC will be left with recruitment, registration, employment, deployment and transfer of teachers. However, since TSC was created under Article 237 (1) of the Constitution, with its core function being to recruit, register, deploy, transfer, discipline and terminate teachers’ contracts, reducing some of its powers might require amendments to the Constitution, which would require at least two thirds of Members of Parliament approving such changes or subjecting them to a referendum.
The team has proposed the referendum route. Public universities Among other changes, the team led by Prof Raphael Munavu has also recommended that the Ministry of Education increase of capitation to support free education. Headteachers have in the past lamented that the amount of money allocated to every learner per year was not sufficient for the efficient running of schools, expansion programmes and other exigencies, such as paying salaries for non-teaching staff.
On higher education, the taskforce has recommended major reforms in the management of public universities, many of which are staring at possible insolvency and are weighed down by debts running into tens of billions of shillings. It has, for instance, proposed that the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB), Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) and Universities Fund Board be merged into one entity that will undertake all the roles and mandates previously executed by the three independent institutions.
The team has compiled its final report and is now ready to present it to President William Ruto at the earliest opportunity, probably today, when its term is set to expire. Insiders say that though the report has far-reaching recommendations that could transform the future of education, the cost of its full implementation is likely to cross the Sh300 billion mark. The team has proposed that its report be implemented over the next five years, putting the annual cost of the reforms at about Sh60 billion. Student unrest Should its proposal that all public primary and secondary boarding schools be abolished, 32,437 primary and more than 3,000 secondary schools will be converted into day schools.
Only the 105 national secondary schools will be allowed to remain as boarding institutions. In return, they will be turned into centres of excellence with the mandate of admitting students transiting from Junior Secondary School (JSS). In the past, boarding schools have been rocked by cases of student unrest leading to burning of dormitories. In recent months, some boarding schools have been hit by health crisis, leading to the hospitalisation or death of some learners due to lapses in health and sanitation. To determine which learners will proceed to regular day schools and who will be admitted to the centres of excellence, the taskforce has recommended the introduction of comparative scores to gauge which candidates are suitable for which type of institution.
Under the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC), JSS comprises Grades 7, 8 and 9, after which learners progress to Senior Secondary (Grades 10, 11 and 12). Unlike their current 8-4-4 system counterparts, whose examination results are used to determine their progression to the next level, CBC has adopted a continuous assessment-based system in a bid to weed out the cut-throat competition associated with national examinations such as KCPE and KCSE. Debate over whether to abolish boarding schools took centrestage at various public engagement forums organised by the taskforce, with some stakeholders holding the view that learners need to be close to their parents and guardians during their formative years. The taskforce, also known as the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms, has finally proposed that boarding schools be done away with in phases. “Depending on the availability of financial resources to upgrade all the nonnational schools to the same status as the latter, the abolishment should be within a time frame of five years,” part of the PWPER report states.
On funding, the team wants the government to increase the annual capitation per child in primary schools from a paltry Sh1,400 to Sh5,000. For learners in secondary schools, it has proposed that the capitation be raised from Sh22,244 per learner per year to at least Sh30,000 to reflect the current high cost of commodities used in schools, such as food and learning materials. On separation of powers between the ministry of Education and TSC, the team wants duplication of duties by Quality Assurance and Standards officers, deployed by both the ministry and TSC abolished.
The two institutions have been at loggerheads over this function, with each issuing different directives at the county level, where both are represented. The task force now wants the government to domicile quality assurance at the ministry, which should also have exclusive authority to oversee functions in all basic education institutions. Says the report: “The Directorate of Quality Assurance and Standards should be conferred with operational powers in law to enable it enforce laws, policies and guidelines of the Ministry and any other Ministries, Department and Agencies that pertain to basic education institutions.” School auditors, who currently report to the Ministry of Education, would also have to be redeployed because the taskforce has recommended that their job be done by officers from the Office of the Auditor-General.
Equally, the team wants the Ministry of Education, Council of Governors (CoG) and TSC to agree on a centralised management of nursery and primary school teachers. This should also be the case with tutors in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVETs). Scheme of service ECDE institutions and teachers are managed and paid by the respective counties while TSC undertakes their registration and disciplinary matters.
Now the Munavu team wants ECDE teachers managed alongside their counterparts in primary schools. Tutors in TVETs are currently managed under four different categories; Technical Training Institutes (TTIs), Polytechnics, Vocational Training Centres (VCTs) and Technical Training Colleges. Some of the tutors and institutions are under counties, others under the Ministry of Education while others fall under the Office of the President or under the Public Service Commission. The tutors lack a scheme of service and career progression guidelines, which has affected their morale and denied them regular salary reviews afforded to other civil servants.
And to end the apparent tussle between the government and some sponsors, particularly religious organisations, the taskforce has proposed that all land title deeds belonging to educational institutions be registered in the name of the Ministry of Education as a trustee. That means before the government registers a new public learning institution sponsored by a private entity, that sponsor must surrender its title deed to the ministry. On universities, vice chancellors will be competitively appointed through select panels set up by respective university councils. Meanwhile, chancellors — who have in the past been presidential appointees — will be selected by university senates and councils if the proposals in the report are adopted. A combined team of a university senate and council will submit names of three candidates to the Education Cabinet Secretary to select to be the chancellor.