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Over 700 teachers die every year, worsening Kenya’s staffing woes

kenya teachers
As at 2017, the total number of teachers registered in Kenya stood at 429,259. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Some 22,961 deceased teachers were removed from the Teachers Service Commission(TSC) roll over the 29 years to 2016, new data showed, an indication of the staffing challenges facing Kenya’s education sector.

This means that the country lost an average of 791 teachers per year between 1987 and 2016 ---translating to two tutors dying each day.

The commission, which is mandated to register all trained teachers in the country under Article 237(2) of the Constitution, is also the largest employer in the public sector.

As at 2017, the total number of teachers registered in Kenya stood at 429,259 according to the Economic Survey 2018. The total number of Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) teachers stood at 118,276 in 2017 while the total number of primary school teachers was recorded at 217,152. The country had 93,831 secondary school teachers in 2017.

The high death rate among teachers in the country is likely to pose a dilemma, especially for the TSC that is battling to address tutor shortages in public schools at a time when the Education ministry is targeting a 100 per cent transition rate from primary to secondary school this year, up from 83.93 percent last year.

Other than destabilising learning in schools, high death rate of teachers put a strain on the Government in the payment of gratuity and pension for those teaching in public schools.

Critics cautioned that the success of this ambitious transition plan heavily depends on the employment of more teachers and expansion of key facilities in schools, including dormitories, classrooms, science laboratories and libraries.

Quality services

Statistics by the World Bank and global data firm, Knoema, show that Kenya’s student-teacher ratio deteriorated between 2002 and 2012. Whereas in 2002, one primary school teacher was serving about 28 students, this rose to 56.6 in 2012. The shortage also extends to secondary schools.

A strategic plan by the TSC showed that an estimated 70,000 new teachers must to be recruited immediately to help guarantee quality services even as the number of learners enrolled in secondary schools is projected to rise from 2.79 million to 3.2 million next year.

Estimates showed that teacher shortage in secondary schools alone stands at about 63,849, according to the TSC although the country has close to 290,000 trained teachers who are yet to be employed.

The shortage has heavily affected some course subjects such as physics and chemistry, home science, drawing and design, agriculture art and design, computer studies and music. In 2017, the government recruited 8,700 teachers — way short of the State’s ideal annual recruitment of 12,626 until 2020 on a budget of Sh8.6 billion.

Improved performance in the 2018 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination has put pressure on the Government to improve facilities in secondary schools amid expectation of higher transition.

New recruits

The TSC this month started the recruitment of some 5,000 teachers as the Government sprinted to address a shortage of tutors in secondary schools.

A schedule by the commission showed that western region would get the bulk of the new recruits. The region will fill 1,746 of the teaching vacancies — an equivalent of 35 percent of the pie.

Kakamega has the highest number of slots be filled nationwide with some 278 teachers marked for recruitment. Other counties that will get big numbers include Bungoma (242), Nakuru (223), Kisii (221) and Makueni (215). Meru and Machakos will each get 201 new teachers.

Northern Kenya counties that have in the past few years benefited from mass recruitment of teachers to replace those displaced by terror-related violence and animosity will, however, get the least number of slots this season.

The next of kin of any teacher who dies while serving in public schools automatically qualifies for pension and gratuity payouts.

“The dependents of a teacher who dies in service are entitled to death gratuity and dependents pension if the teacher was serving on permanent and pensionable terms and was confirmed in the service,” TSC says on its website.

According to TSC records, about 2,769 applications for death gratuity were forwarded to the Treasury in three months to December last year.