Schools in North Eastern Kenya are closed and the whole education sector in the region is on its death bed. Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has withdrawn non-local teachers from the schools without warning relevant local education boards. This withdrawal has now become a ritual where TSC recruits teachers only to withdraw them when an accident or a terror attack occurs only in Northern Kenya. But this latest grotesque killing of learning in the region is threatening to expose hitherto unknown ill motives of the Nancy Macharia led TSC. Surprisingly, all non-local teachers employed by private schools in the region are happily going on about their lives and teaching in their schools. Not a single private school was closed for lack of teachers. The pupils are in class, teachers are staying put and giving the terrorist group, Alshabaab the middle finger. Non-local businessmen and women, who are of considerable number, are also going about their businesses. Leaders, security actors, educationist and other stakeholders are wondering what exactly TSC is withdrawing teachers from. KNUT secretary General Wilson Sossion accuses Nancy Macharia of using the counties of the former North Eastern Province as recruiting grounds for teachers. He questions the rational of recruiting teachers only for Nancy to withdraw them less than a year after their employment and transferring them to other counties under the pretext of insecurity in the north. Sossion calls it misguided. Mandera County Commissioner, Onesmus Kyatha, in charge of security in that county queries why teachers are being withdrawn when there is peace in the county. ”We have a stable security situation in Mandera today, it is surprising that teachers are leaving citing insecurity” says the County Commissioner.
Dr Nancy Macharia has expressed ineptitude leading TSC and is guilty of gross violation of the rights of the Northern child. Since she took over the running of TSC, she presided over the shutting down of the education sector in this region and the subsequent mass failure of children from these schools. Dr Nancy is a paper tiger but her paper qualifications has not translated into practical policies of progress and inclusive learning. Stakeholders are calling for her removal as she is running down an important institution. She does not have the integrity, grit and independence to run a serious national agency like the TSC. Her secretariat failed to rise to the occasion too. They have failed these children and must be interdicted on grounds of dereliction of duty. Director of Staffing Ms Rita Wahome, Director of HRM&D Dr Julius Olayo and Director of Administration Services Ibrahim Mumin must all be sent packing in the spirit of accountability and fairness. They have not said a word to explain why schools are shut and why teachers have been withdrawn when their counterparts in the private sector are happily teaching.
Most of all, the government has failed the children of Northern Kenya, failing to protect the lives of teachers and the education of these children. It is aiding the death of this sector and continues to promote policies that under develop the region.
Local politicians have been left running like headless chickens playing catch-up game. As always, they are episodic reactors, never known to plan ahead. They always score poorly on strategy. In 2015, I advised them to take advantage of the CDF resource and the devolutionary status of the education docket to put glamour back into teaching and attract talents to classrooms. As incompetence attracts hubris and abhors advice, they declined with derision. I asked them to take it a notch higher and use incentives to attract university and high school C and C+ graduates to teaching. The long-term returns will be worth it. Instead, after waiting for disaster to happen, they gathered D+ graduates and asked TSC to train them. TSC declined, of course for malicious reasons. Nothing changed since. While it is true that the Members of Parliament have tried to source teachers and promised to part-fund the program, reason why legislators like Sofia Abdinoor of Ijara are irked, they were unfortunately backing the wrong program, had the wrong approach and did not do due diligence. It was shocking to witness how they were running the program. They were very short term in thinking and mediocre in execution. While they have strongly and angrily spoken against TSC’s shocking surprise withdrawal exercise, they are not directly affected as their children study in Nairobi and other affluent cities where teaching goes on all round the year with the added tuition classes. So their noise will die down quickly and everything will remain the same. This is why elected officials must not be allowed to privately educate their children. They will not develop the lived experiences required to empathize with their electorates. Politicians and the middle classes are aiding the death of state schools. This will continue to aid inequality and therefore hurt the peace of the country in the long run. Privately educating their children and letting state schools waste away is tantamount to building a high perimeter wall around their homes in the middle of slums, it wont give them peace.
Whatever the present situation, it is paramount to keep hope alive. This is another opportunity for local leaders to learn lessons and seize the moment. They must say never again and show leadership. Crying wolf and whinging is not leadership. They must take the resolve to find permanent solution to this perennial problem.
Take Bold Steps
Recruit university graduates and graduates from the region with C and C+, promise them attractive packages and send them for teacher training courses. Guarantee recruits generous house allowance, university graduate level salaries and scholarships for further studies of choice after between 5 to 10 years of teaching service. Finding graduates to teach is not difficult if the conditions are right. Neither will it be very expensive. The funds shall be sourced from the County governments and the Constituency Development Funds. By shelving petty short term projects, MPs’ misappropriation of CDF and curbing waste and corruption in the counties, it will not be difficult to raise the funds needed to kick live back into the education sector. Constitute a new, independent NEP-wide organization headed by a senior international educationist to manage it. Prototype it for 3 to 5 years and evaluate its successes and challenges. If the program provides us talented local teachers in the classrooms in 5 years, we can consider it a success.