The in-tray is full for Cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed as she takes over as the critical Education docket. The sector faces many challenges, ranging from implementing far-reaching reforms to matters of bread and butter, to increasing teacher numbers and provision of equipment and facilities.
These challenges ultimately place hurdles in the provision of quality education. For instance, the provision of electricity to facilitate digital learning in a number of schools is not yet a reality, though progress has been made across the country.
Furthermore, teachers, especially in primary schools have been grappling with increased pupil numbers, placing a huge burden on both scholarship and attention to individual pupil.
One of the biggest challenges in the sector is truancy, compounded by sheer negligence, which have persistently been documented in reports in recent years. For instance, during the last government fiscal year, it was reported that almost half of primary school teachers do not attend class, which cost the taxpayer a staggering Sh27 billion. During the same period, it was also reported that another 16 per cent do not report to school at all.
That translates to at least 30,000 teachers. These are worrying figures, and the ministry needs to get to the bottom of it all. Stakeholders must start asking just where the rain started beating the hitherto noble profession.
There must be efforts to increase the number of hours that delineate student-teacher contact in terms of instruction. Concerns have also been raised about declining standards of languages, which by extension affect the teaching of other subjects.
This must be addressed pronto. That is especially because as the medium of instruction, if performance in English drops, this has a critical bearing on the performance of all other subjects. Another contentious issue that has just emerged but which has been simmering for two years now is that of performance contracts introduced by the Teachers’ Service Commission.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) is now demanding the withdrawal of the contracts, rooting instead for permanent and pensionable terms for the sake of job security. Contracts have been introduced in the corporate sector with varying degrees of success, based on the premise that the system makes non-performing individuals more accountable.
The flip side is that individuals are unlikely to give their jobs the best shot, knowing that chances of retention are not guaranteed. These and other issues will have to be addressed.