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Battle for Sh435 Billion Control: Ministry of Education vs. Teachers Service Commission (TSC)

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Battle for Sh435 Billion Control: Ministry of Education vs. Teachers Service Commission (TSC)

The Ministry of Education and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) are embroiled in a contentious struggle over authority regarding the substantial budget and sizable teaching workforce allocated for basic education in Kenya, totaling Sh435 billion and a workforce of 365,000.

Recent developments reveal escalating tensions triggered by proposed amendments to the Teachers Service Commission Act, 2012. The TSC convened a meeting last week to deliberate on the suggestions outlined in the Teachers Service Commission (Amendment), 2024.

ALSO READ: Education CS Machogu Criticizes TSC’s Teacher Transfers Amid School Attack

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Despite receiving invitations, Ministry officials opted to skip the event. The Ministry of Education’s designation as a “stakeholder” in the invitation was met with dissatisfaction at Jogoo House.

While the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and some others abstained, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) and the Kenya Union of Special Needs Education Teachers were in attendance.

Critics within the Ministry argue that the proposed Bill undermines the President’s Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) recommendations, aiming to shift authority from the TSC to the Ministry of Education, particularly in basic education matters.

Key concerns revolve around the financial implications, with the TSC currently receiving the largest allocation, totaling Sh316.7 billion, out of the Sh628.6 billion allocated for the education sector in the 2023/2024 financial year.

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While significant funds are earmarked for various educational initiatives, including Sh65.4 billion for the Free Day Secondary Education (FDSE) program and Sh12.5 billion for Free Primary Education (FPE), the proposed amendments could reshape how these funds are managed.

ALSO READ: TSC Creates Rift with Education Ministry, Seeks Expanded Powers

One contentious issue is the lack of Ministry oversight in school fund utilization, as highlighted by the PWPER’s recommendation to make headteachers and principals accountable to the Ministry. However, the proposed Bill does not address this issue adequately.

In higher education, substantial allocations have been made, including Sh97.5 billion for university education and Sh30.3 billion to the Higher Education Loans Board. Nonetheless, concerns persist regarding accountability and mismanagement of funds.

Efforts to enhance accountability, such as the introduction of school fee payments through the eCitizen platform, have faced legal hurdles. Although intended to curb financial misconduct, the directive has been temporarily halted pending a court decision.

Machogu’s Response and DP’s Intervention

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu remained steadfast in his commitment to the sector amidst brewing tensions, as he emphasized the importance of focusing on implementing recommendations rather than being swayed by distractions. Machogu, head of the Education sector, expressed this sentiment to the Nation, highlighting the ongoing work overseen by an advisory committee to enact necessary amendments.

ALSO READ: TSC Amendment Bill on Special Needs Education (SNE)

Insights from interviews with insiders shed light on the involvement of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) in a sub-committee chaired by Prof Collins Odote, which was later withdrawn after minimal participation. A senior official, speaking anonymously, labeled the proposed amendments as “dead on arrival,” stressing the significance of adhering to procedural structures before initiating public participation on draft bills.

Contrary to the conventional route, the Deputy President’s office, under Rigathi Gachagua, is set to present the Bill before the Cabinet, bypassing Machogu. This maneuver aims to address the conflict discreetly and prevent its escalation, showcasing the DP’s office as a mediator in government affairs, as mandated by Executive Order Number 2 of 2023.

The Office of the Deputy President has previously played a crucial role in resolving similar disputes within government bodies, exemplified by its intervention in conflicts between the National Police Service and the National Police Service Commission. Furthermore, the DP’s office holds the responsibility of overseeing public sector reforms, including those within the education sector.

During a recent forum at the Kenya School of Government, TSC boss Nancy Macharia hinted at potential revisions to the draft Bill, emphasizing its preliminary nature and soliciting feedback for further refinement. Meanwhile, Attorney-General Justin Muturi clarified that the Bill is yet to reach his office for legal advice, a standard procedure for amendments affecting operational frameworks.

ALSO READ: TSC Amendment Bill on Qualifications for Individuals with Foreign Certificates

The genesis of this conflict traces back to the PWPER report, which identified overlaps in functions between the Ministry of Education and TSC, advocating for their harmonization. While the ministry is tasked with the management of schools, TSC’s role primarily centers on teachers’ professional and employment aspects, according to the report’s recommendations. Despite being TSC employees, teachers are considered to work under the ministry’s jurisdiction.

In navigating this intricate conflict, Machogu’s measured stance underscores the need for concerted efforts towards effective implementation, while the DP’s intervention signifies a strategic move to mitigate tensions and ensure smooth governance operations.

In a recent report, the Presidential Taskforce on Parastatal Reforms (PWPER) recommended a significant shift in the oversight of quality assurance from the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to the Ministry of Education. PWPER pointed out a misinterpretation of this function within the TSC Act of 2012 and the TSC Code of Regulations for Teachers.

According to PWPER, the function of ensuring quality assurance and standards should solely rest with the Ministry of Education. They emphasized that the responsibility of TSC should primarily focus on the professional development and employment status of teachers, particularly within the framework of performance evaluation.

In response to this proposal, Collins Oyuu, the Secretary-General of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), revealed that they opted to boycott a public participation event, expressing their unwillingness to endorse the proposed changes.

ALSO READ: TSC’s Amendment Bill on Registration of ECDE Teachers with Montessori Training

Oyuu highlighted a previous instance in 2019 when Knut’s involvement in a similar meeting led to controversy, as the TSC later accused them of contradicting their initial endorsement. Consequently, Knut chose not to participate in the current amendments process.

Expressing concerns over the lack of acknowledgment of union involvement in teacher remuneration negotiations, Oyuu criticized the draft bill for its omission of collective bargaining agreements, which he viewed as an attempt to undermine the bargaining power of unions. He further criticized the TSC’s apparent focus on consolidating power rather than effectively managing teacher affairs.

On the other hand, Akello Misori, the Secretary-General of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), defended the participation of union officials in stakeholders’ meetings. While expressing support for educational reforms, Misori objected to the proposed empowerment of the TSC, citing potential negative impacts on teachers’ welfare.

Reflecting on the historical context, Wilson Sossion, former Secretary-General of Knut, recalled the initial support for the autonomy of TSC during the drafting of the 2010 Constitution. However, he clarified that this autonomy was envisioned within limits, aiming primarily at resource management rather than creating conflicts with the Ministry of Education.

ALSO READ: TSC Teacher Registration for Single Teaching Subjects: Amendment Bill 2024

In summary, the proposed transfer of quality assurance oversight has sparked controversy, with stakeholders expressing divergent views on the implications for teacher management and the role of unions in the negotiation process. As the debate continues, it remains to be seen how the authorities will address these concerns and navigate towards a consensus on the proposed reforms.

Battle for Sh435 Billion Control: Ministry of Education vs. Teachers Service Commission (TSC)

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