23 August 2003

Kenya: TSC is Cornered Over Teacher Recruitment

Nairobi — Chaotic events that characterised teacher recruitment across the country this week call for a review of the decision to decentralise the exercise three years ago.

Teachers Service Commission (TSC) staff and other Ministry of Education field officials found themselves in a tight corner over accusations that they were soliciting for bribes before short-listing candidates for employment.

In North Nandi District, candidates from neighbouring districts were chased from interview centres by the locals who said the advertised vacancies were meant for them.

Certificates were torn as candidates engaged in fist fights over the teaching jobs.

On Monday, complaints were raised in Nyeri, Kisii, Bondo, and several parts of the country concerning the manner in which the exercise was being conducted.

Education Assistant Minister, Mrs Beth Mugo on Tuesday warned that the Government will sack any officer implicated in corrupt deals.

She advised all aggrieved candidates who felt that they were denied a chance to attend interviews to forward their grievances to the Director of Education.

She maintained that the exercise will go on as scheduled and ruled out the possibility of having TSC do it as was the case before 2001.

The Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (Kuppet) criticised Mugo saying she was grossly interfering with the functions of TSC.

Secretary-General,Mr Wanyonyi Buteyo said the exercise should be called off and TSC resume its role as spelled out in the Education Act.

The union said the decision to decentralise teacher recruitment was illegal and only promotes nepotism and tribalism across the country at a time when the Government was trying to end the vice.

"It seems TSC is promoting the quota system in teacher recruitment. That action itself makes it impossible for candidates to seek employment outside their ethnic communities as has been the case in Nandi," says Buteyo.

The unionist called on the Government to make TSC autonomous in order to receive funding directly from the Exchequer. "Of what use will the complaints to the Director of Education be, given that TSC will only act on doctored lists presented by its field officials?"

Buteyo argued that TSC should carry out its duty in teacher recruitment and not allow Board of Governors (BoG) members to interview and recruit teachers.

Buteyo alleged that in Bungoma district, parents were selling parcels of land and livestock to bribe education officials and BoG chairmen to hire their children.

"I am sure that if the Anti-Corruption Police Unit was serious on the issue, many DEOs would be behind bars by now. They are openly collecting bribes from desperate candidates," said Buteyo.

He took issue with one of the requirements that a teacher should demonstrate a thorough understanding of the education system saying "how does a BoG member decide whether or not a candidate understands what he himself (member) doesn't know?"

Concerning the allegation that some candidates already have TSC service numbers and that they were being denied first priority in the recruitment drive, a senior TSC official explained that "it is a legal requirement that all qualified persons apply to be issued with such numbers. Having a TSC number does not make one a front-runner in interviews."

The contentious decentralisation of teacher recruitment came into force in 2001. Mr Benjamin Sogomo, then TSC Secretary, argued that the move was meant to stem the endemic problem of teachers seeking transfers from hardship areas.

He said since the Government halted the hiring of teachers upon graduation from colleges and universities in 1998, the commission was having difficulties in balancing teaching staff across the country.

Since then, whenever the commission advertises teaching vacancies, one of the requirements is that a teacher has to accept to work in a station for at least five years before seeking a transfer.

However, the new mode of teacher recruitment is not reflected in the TSC Code of Conduct nor in the Education Act.

Buteyo dismisses the requirement saying "it is the education officials and TSC itself which effects any transfer requests".

He wonders what would become of a teacher who has a genuine reason for seeking a transfer before the five years are over.

And in Nyanza province, hundreds of applicants jammed local district and municipal education offices in a desperate bid to fill the limited advertised positions, reports Franklin Awori.

The province will recruit 1,074 teachers in primary and 592 in secondary schools.

According to Nyanza Provincial Director of Education, Mr David Siele, this is against an under-staffing level of 11,421 and 2000 teachers in primary and secondary schools respectively,

Siele said the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) was keenly monitoring the exercise to ensure transparency and fairness.

"We had a clear selection criteria and those complaining must have misunderstood the selection system," said Siele.

The PDE said preference was being given to earlier graduates and those with higher examination qualifications.

According to statistics from the Provincial Education Office, Migori district has a shortage of 1554 teachers against an advertised vacancy of 146.

Siaya, 1299 with 122 to be filled, Rachuonyo 1213 against 114, Kisii 1055 to 99 advertised positions, Gucha 929 to 87 and Nyamira 903 to 85 positions to be filled.

Other districts are Homa Bay with a shortage of 847 against 80 vacancies, Nyando 799 against 75, Bondo 793 to 75 and Kisumu district 698 to 66 advertised positions. Kisumu municipality has a shortage of 312 against 29 to be recruited, Suba district 519 against 45 and Kuria 503 against 47 advertised vacancies.

"The recruitment exercise in some schools was extremely chaotic due to lack of clear recruitment guidelines," he said.

Kisumu Knut Executive Secretary, Eric Hongo, said more teachers are needed to ensure effective teaching and improved performance in national examinations.

He said there were complaints of university graduates being left out while those with diplomas were recruited.

In secondary schools, about 280 more Kiswahili teachers are required, 200 in mathematics, 220 in chemistry and 200 in physics. The provincial Education office also reported a shortage of 200 teachers in history, 190 in Biology, 150 in English and 100 in commerce.

In Rift Valley Province, Peter Mutai reports that the government will recruit 894 primary school teachers to meet the shortage of 8,021 it is experiencing, the Provincial Director of Education, Mr Pascal Muli Makite has revealed.

The hardest hit districts are Trans Nzoia and Narok with a shortage of 1,086 and 1,041 teachers respectively.

Other districts are Nakuru which requires 1,015 teachers followed by Bomet with 887 teachers, West Pokot 730, Kericho 666 and Nandi South with 584.

The list also includes; Kajiado district with 516, Uasin Gishu, 500, Turkana, 395, Trans Mara 385, Nandi north 326, Laikipia 300 and Buret 297, Marakwet 286, Samburu 205 and Keiyo 87.

In the municipalities, Eldoret tops the list with a shortfall of 119 teachers followed by Nakuru with 93 while Kitale municipality requires 71 teachers.

Makite said districts such as Baringo and Koibatek have sufficient teachers in the highland regions but arid and semi arid areas of the districts experience a shortage.

To correct the problem, Makite says the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is currently working on a balancing programme for teachers in the two districts.

Last week, the government conducted the recruitment of teachers at the district level in an exercise co-ordinated by District Education Officers (DEOs) country wide.

In Nakuru, recruitment was done to fill 95 posts allocated to the district by the government.

Nakuru DEO Mrs Jane Mtange said 1,226 teachers had applied for the jobs out of which 285 applicants were short listed.

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