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Teacher training colleges in crisis as student numbers decline

TTCs jump from frying pan into the fire as government ignores their woes, instead pours billions into polytechnics and technical institutions     

DOUGLAS DINDI @PeopleDailyKe

new strategy to boost enrolment in middle-level technical institutions through free training and provision of an upkeep allowance could be the straw that broke the camel’s back for public and private teacher training institutions already teetering on the brink of collapse.

A three-year Diploma Teacher Education (DTE) course in any of the three government colleges costs a student Sh130,000 spread across a three-year period. Similarly, a two-year Primary Teacher Education (PTE) course in any of the 29 public Teacher Training Colleges (TTCs) costs students at least Sh160,000.

In contrast, the annual cost for a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) course, has been lowered by 30 per cent from Sh92,000 to Sh56,420 per academic year, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed announed earliier this month. The move could effectively shut the gates to TTCs and open floodgates to technical training institutions.  

Even more painful to teacher trainees on diploma and P1 courses, all students in TVET institutions will now be eligible for a bursary of Sh30,000 and a government loan (through the Higher Education Loans Board, Helb) of Sh40,000. The annual bursary and the loan combined will leave the student with a ‘boom’ of Sh13,580 per year as upkeep.

Amina also announced that students in public TVET colleges will not be charged a penny to train as Sh26,420 of the Sh40,000 Helb loan would go directly to pay tuition fees and student pocket money.

The Cabinet Secretary hopes that the increased funding for the TVET sector coupled with curricular reviews that transformed the syllabus from supply-based to demand-based will improve enrolment and anchor the institutions as engine for national growth and development.

The government reportedly also has plans to recruit 2,000 trainers to work in the colleges during this fiscal year, a move that should raise their numbers from the current 3,780 to 5,780. The government is targeting a TVET enrolment in the upward of 500,000 students.

Teacher training colleges are likely to feel the heat in this new paradigm shift. Already, the TTCs are smarting from low student populations, thanks to depressed national performance in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in the past two years, which has seen nearly all candidates who score C+ (plus) gain entry to public universities.

The TTC heads association chairman, Saul Barasa, last week told Scholar that players in the sector have adopted a wait-and-see approach in the unfolding scenario.  The association says lack of qualified KCSE graduates willing to join the profession has jolted admissions in the last two years. This in addition to the scrapping of Helb loans for DTE students.

Barasa is a principal at Kibabii Diploma Teachers College (DTC) in Bungoma county, one of the three diploma teachers training colleges. The others are Kagumo (Nyeri county) and Lugari (Kakamega county).

He says admission of all KCSE grade C+ (Plus) to public universities effectively shut them from the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (Kuccps) 2016 and 2017 KCSE recruitment process. “We were forced to fish from the KCSE candidates who scored C+ from 2015 and earlier years. This pool is also diminishing and if you consider the government incentives in the TVET compared to this sub-sector then you understand the challenge.”

Diminishing pool

In April this year, the Kenya National Qualifications Framework Authority (KNQFA), a body mandated by law to undertake the task gazette, lowered entry grade for diploma teacher education institutions from C+ (plus) to C (plain) and C- (Minus) and that of primary teacher education from C (plain) to D+ (plus).

KNQFA chairman Dr Bonventure Kere said the plan to lower the DTE and PTE entry grades key to survival of the middle-level teacher training colleges. He observed a sharp decline in the number of students scoring above the C+ (plus) mark in two past KCSE exams necessitated the decision.

Previously, students seeking to join diploma colleges were required to score a minimum of C+. Slightly above 70,000 KCSE candidates scored the C+(plus) grade in 2016 and 2017, a performance indexes that precipitated lowering of university entry grade to C+ (plus).

The Ministry of Education has not communicated the new gazette entry grades for the TTCs through relevant circulars to the implementing agencies including Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec), Kuccps, and Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and college principals.  

Says Barasa: “The gazette notice gave us hope but that was short-lived as the government has changed focus to emphasising TVET, increasing funding and incentives to the technical training colleges. Where will you choose to go if it were you: Pay Sh160,000 in fees to train as a teacher or get free training and even some pocket money in a technical college?”

A director of Pamus Teachers College, a private entity in Bungoma town, Peter Amukowa believes disagreements over the C- (minus) and D+ (plus) entry grades could have triggered the enforcement delay. “There are those in the ministry who argue that training a student who did not master 50 per cent of the secondary content to become a teacher and entrusting him to impart that knowledge to others is being too ambitious,” he says.

“I hear the government is considering scrapping PTE, so that in future all primary teachers will be diploma holders,” he added.

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