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Teachers shortage threat to total transition policy

Irene Githinji @gitshee

The massive all-round government investment in the education sector may yet prove shy in meeting the implementation of 100 per cent transition policy from primary to secondary schools. 

For example, whereas the government put the number of the shortage of teachers in secondary schools at around 60,000, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) puts the shortfall at around 110, 000.

  Surveys point teacher shortages as the biggest challenge in public schools, despite government efforts to significantly increase the teachers to students ratio and redistribution of teachers particularly to areas considered hardship.      

And due to figures, which according to teachers’ union do not add up, they are insisting that the government avails more resources to hire more tutors.     

Now that another 1.5 million new entrants are expected to join Form One in less than a month’s time, educationists are raising concern that the shortfall could spell doom on education quality if the teacher-student ratio is not critically looked into.

Data from the Ministry of Education and Teachers Service Commission (TSC) indicate that religious education, languages and nearly all subjects grouped under humanities are the worst hit with inadequate teachers.

It has emerged that the recent emphasis on science subjects, has led to a significant rise in the number enrolling to teachers training colleges for the Science Technology and Maths (STEM) subjects as opposed to the humanities. Emerging disciplines like procurement have also reportedly attracted high interests.

In the past 12 months, the government has improved infrastructure in 864 institutions. The goal was to considerably expand admissions. It focused on boarding facilities, classrooms, dining halls and laboratories.

In the last financial year for example, the Education ministry built 700 classrooms in secondary schools.

According to ministry guidelines, a standard classroom should accommodate 40 students. This means the new classrooms can hold only 28,000 new learners.

Some 989 new secondary schools have been built in the last one-year, pushing the number of schools to 10,655 from 9,966. This, according to educationists, has not been matched with the employment of additional teachers.

  Auditor General Edward Ouko has also already sounded a warning in his 2016/17 report in which he says there is “too much” congestion in most of secondary schools as a result of previous year’s increase in admissions.

Similarly an official at the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association who declined to be quoted due to the sensitivity of the issue said schools expected to carry the bulk of admission will suffer because of limited resources.

“Most schools have a big challenge. Some classrooms will have up to 60 or 70 students after  admission, instead of the recommended 40. Headmasters can’t create extra streams because of inadequate number of teachers,” said the official.

On Monday, TSC secretary Nancy Macharia urged the National Treasury to continue supporting the commission’s proposal to ensure more teachers are recruited yearly, to bridge the gap, pointing out that there are a shortage of 87,737 tutors, a majority of them in secondary schools, the number standing at 57,380.

Macharia said the number is exclusive of the shortage occasioned by the 100 per cent transition to secondary schools.

Although the TSC had made a proposal to recruit 12,626 yearly for four years running from 2018 at a cost of Sh8.3 billion, Macharia said the commission received funds to hire only 8,700 this year. However, she said the new recruits  are helping ease the workload.

“The rise in enrolment, coupled with exits through natural attribution have left us with a huge need of additional teachers to plug the shortage. We hope the National Treasury will continue giving our proposal the necessary attention,” said Macharia even as she urged teachers to do all they can to be innovative to ensure they do not compromise teaching standards.   

She further called for the need to explore whether it is time schools started sharing teachers and e- learning communities.

But Kuppet’s secretary general Akello Misori told People Daily yesterday the ‘teacher sharing concept’ based on schools’ proximity is currently untenable, adding that TSC has not provided the rationale on how the sharing of teachers concept can be actualised or a piloted to analyse success rates.

“For instance, the proximity from a certain school A to B could be an issue and you may find the teacher having to go an extra mile to make the concept work. This means other variables not initially thought of could arise such as teachers having to take motorcycle and things like accidents and traffic are not factored in that concept,” said Misori.

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