Education Taskforce Term Expires Amid Cash Crisis
The Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) has been confronted by headwinds after running short of funds as its term expired before completing its work. By last week, the task force chaired by Prof Raphael Munavu was making frantic efforts to have its term extended by at least one month as it also sought more funding from the National Treasury. The term of the task force expired on March 31, before it could compile the final report for handing over to President William Ruto, meaning that its mandate and works now hung in the balance unless the Head of State extended it.
Sources have confirmed that the task force had also run short of money to fund its operations that were in the final stages. Yesterday, Munavu while confirming the expiry of his team’s term allayed fears that operations of the task force would stall. “We have already notified the authorities about the expiry of our term and we hope something is being done to rectify the situation,” Munavu, who declined to comment on the cash shortage, said. But sources told the People Daily that all operations at the task force have been paralysed as it awaits the greenlight from both the Executive Office of the Presidency and the National Treasury.
The taskforce ran out of money as its time lapsed at a time it was fine-tuning the final report for presentation to the President. The team had divided itself into different sub committees, each working on specific topics with a view to synthesising views collected from members of the public. The team was then scheduled to have a retreat this week to harmonise all the recommendations made by the working groups into one final document for presentation.
“As we speak now, the work of PWPER has temporarily stopped as we wait for extension and more money from the National Treasury,” a source said. The task force’s mandate included studying all laws governing the basic education sub-sector and making recommendations for review of the legislations with a view to addressing duplication, ambiguities and improving linkages. In its preliminary recommendations presented to the President sometime last year, the taskforce proposed that the Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) be domiciled in primary schools instead of the earlier position to have them in secondary schools.
It also recommended the splitting of the Teachers Service Commission ((TSC) to create a separate body to serve as the teacher employer, and a professional body to serve as the teachers’ regulator. The Ministry of Education was also empowered to take over the supervisory and quality assurance and standards roles in schools countrywide. On university education the committee had recommended that fees paid by students in public universities be increased from the current Sh16,000 to Sh52,000 per semester.
Among the measures planned to revamp the higher learning institutions are scrapping unattractive courses, closing satellite campuses, possible mergers and rationalisation of staff to cut costs. Also on the cards is a reduction in the number of government-sponsored students, which will see families dig deeper to take their children through university.
Placement in universities for the more than 173,000 qualified students in the 2022 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination has been delayed as the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) awaits clear directions on the funding and declared programmes. The taskforce also recommended that the government bails out the cashstrapped public universities, which have an accumulated debt of more than Sh56 billion. The huge debts are owed by universities to statutory bodies including deductions for PAYE, pension, NHIF and NSSF amongst others.
On the recruitment of vice-chancellors of public universities, the panel proposed that the President should still be the appointing authority though with the input of the Cabinet Secretary for Education and the university’s Senate. It also wants the government to aim at increasing the enrolment of students in teachers’ training colleges. The number currently stands at 14.7 per cent, or 3,922 students in 34 institutions, which have a capacity of 26,650 students. It also recommended that the government expands the space for Technical and Vocational Training by establishing such institutes across the country.
The report showed that there should be a National Polytechnic in every county, Technical Vocational College in every constituency and a Vocational Training Centre in each ward.