State Hints at Freezing Teachers’ Employment on PNP to Solve 111,870 Teacher Shortage

Senators have called for a freeze on teachers’ employment on permanent and pensionable terms and suggested that they instead be employed on contract to fix a shortage that the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) puts at 111,870.

The Senate National Cohesion Committee told the TSC boss Nancy Macharia to identify legal issues that need to be addressed to allow for teachers to be employed on contract, arguing that this would allow the commission to employ more teachers with its limited budgetary allocation.

Primary school teachers on permanent terms have a starting salary of Sh35,000 while those on contract are paid a Sh15,000 “stipend”. Those deployed to secondary schools on permanent terms start with a salary of Sh55,000 while the ones on contract are paid Sh20,000.

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Ms Macharia said that the shortage continues to exist despite the commission having recruited 36,000 teachers earlier this year, with 47,329 needed at primary level while secondary schools lack 64,541 teachers.

“To achieve this, the commission requires an annual budgetary allocation of Sh14.8 billion for recruitment of teachers,” she said.

The TSC boss added that the commission cannot legally keep teachers on contract for too long and that they would be turned into permanent and pensionable after two years.

“We’ve never had enough teachers because we don’t have the finances. Give us the budget and we’ll recruit,” Ms Macharia said.

Ms Macharia told the committee that records of the 36,000 newly recruited teachers are being worked on and that all of them have not yet been entered into the payroll. Only the records of 20,900 teachers have been finalised.

Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago said that the Employment Act should be amended to clear any legal hurdles to allow for contractual hiring, with clear terms of payment and length of service for such teachers.

“We cannot be held hostage by unions. We have children who must be taught and Kenyans who need jobs,” he said.

Tharaka-Nithi Senator Mwenda Gataya said the proposal to hire on contract should be tabled before the Cabinet for approval so that those who serve a specified time are absorbed on permanent terms yearly.

The senators also called for a return to the delocalisation policy, saying when teachers are allowed to go back to their preferred home counties, some regions that do not have homegrown teachers will be understaffed.

“The commission transfers teachers who apply for transfers back to their home counties subject to availability of vacancies. As at April, the commission has effected a total of 15,824 transfers of teachers to their preferred counties,” Ms Macharia told the committee.

Mr Mandago criticised the National Assembly for compelling TSC to rescind the delocalisation policy. He said the move offends Article 10(2)(b) of the Constitution, which states that national values and principles of governance include “human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalised”. “As the upper house, we need to revisit and veto that decision,” he said.

The Kenya Kwanza manifesto promises “to deal with the challenge faced by teachers resulting from delocalisation, we will replace this policy with a nationalisation programme which will incentivise teachers who choose to serve in other parts of the country”.

Meanwhile, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u yesterday skipped an invitation to appear before the Senate Standing Committee on Education to shed light on payment of retired teachers’ pension. This was the fourth time he has failed to appear before the committee.

The committee will now formally summon Prof Ndung’u to respond to a petition touching on a drawn-out case on payment of teachers who retired between 1998 and 2003.

Read: TSC lists shortage of teachers as among its biggest challenges in report

“Due to unforeseen circumstances and official commitments that require my personal immediate attention, I regretfully inform you that I am unable to attend the scheduled session as requested,” Prof Ndung’u wrote in a letter dated May 18 to the Senate clerk.

The CS skipped another meeting on May 4. At the time, he said that he had been scheduled for another meeting with the National Assembly on the same day. He then filed a letter that said that the government had paid the teachers over Sh16 billion. Some of the retired teachers have since come out to claim that they have not received any payment.

The committee also raised concerns over learning in junior secondary schools (JSS) that do not have enough infrastructure and teachers.

“I sympathise with our JSS learners. There’s something terribly wrong. How are they being taught science where there are no labs?” asked Taita-Taveta Senator Johnes Mwaruma.

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