Kenyan public schools hit by mass exodus of new teachers, TSC chair says

Tuesday June 18 2019

Mrs Winfred Kathure, a teacher at M.C.K. Kaaga Primary School in Meru County, central Kenya, instructs Standard Six pupils on January 3, 2019.

Mrs Winfred Kathure, a teacher at M.C.K. Kaaga Primary School in Meru County, central Kenya, instructs Standard Six pupils on January 3, 2019. The Teachers Service Commission claims new teachers are leaving the profession in droves. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

OUMA WANZALA
By OUMA WANZALA
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A large number of new teachers are leaving the profession within their first three to five years, their employer has said.

The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) chairperson Lydia Nzomo said the new teachers are exiting the profession because of a lack of support from administrators, colleagues, students and parents.

“A teacher who is well inducted and supported is likely to be greatly motivated and offer quality teaching. It is the responsibility of every principal to ensure there is an effective induction programme for new teachers. The new teachers, and even the not so new should be constantly reminded of the rules of the game e.g. protection of the learners from all types of abuse, physical, emotional, psychological and sexual,” said Dr Nzomo in a speech during the just ended head teachers conference in Mombasa.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

According to TSC, about 44 teachers retire, die or resign daily putting a strain on the sector that is facing a shortage of about 100,000 tutors.

To stem the exodus, the commission is now replacing those exiting the service on a monthly basis.

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TSC is also facing a shortage of teachers in specific subject combinations in humanities, Kiswahili, physics and computer studies.

“Further to this, the shortage of teachers for physics and computer studies has been occasioned by the mobility of these teachers to the private sector. All these have constrained effective delivery of the curricula and consequently led to poor performance by the students studying these subjects,” reads a report by TSC.

BEST PRACTICE

Ms Nzomo said experienced teachers can provide tremendous insight and encouragement to the inexperienced or struggling teachers.

“A school leader must develop veteran teachers who want to share best practices with other teachers. You also need to build a trusting, encouraging atmosphere in which the entire staff communicates, collaborates and shares with each other,” said the chairperson.

At the same time, skewed sharing of lessons amongst teachers poses threats to effective coverage of syllabus in public schools.

Coupled with the reality that schools are grappling with shortage of teachers, failure to balance the workload threatens to compromise educational standards.

Head teachers are required to equitably share out lessons without putting undue pressure on new recruited teachers.

'BULLYING'

New teachers have protested, claiming they are compelled to teach more lessons compared to their experienced colleagues.

The Ministry of Education’s latest report shows that some new teachers handle up to 40 lessons per week while their more experienced colleagues only have 10.

The report revealed the most disadvantaged lot are primary school teachers, who are also most affected by TSC decision to post tutors outside their home counties.

"The treatment here reminds me of the days in school when 'monolisation' (bullying) of Form Ones was real. We are treated as outsiders and assigned to teach far too many subjects compared to our colleagues who hail from the host counties," said a teacher from a school in Kakamega County who cannot be named for fear of victimisation.

Ideally, it is only the head teacher, deputy and senior masters in schools who should have less lessons compared to other tutors because they have administrative roles.

Some teachers claim they need to rest and expect the new entrants to assist them with some of their workload.

Head teachers condoning the unfair treatment also demand that the freshly employed teachers take up some of their lessons in the guise that they are busy.

"The subjects are under their names on the timetable. Yours is to teach but you are not supposed to reveal that when the education officials visit schools," another teacher from Trans Nzoia County said.

BURN OUT

As a result, new teachers experience burn out and low morale, the very reasons they cite for exiting the professions in droves. With such burnt out, many teachers say they just ‘appear in class but not engage in quality teaching.’

The teachers are assigned those subjects that have a lot of marking exercises such as mathematics, English and Kiswahili.

But the Kenya Primary school heads Association (Kepsha) chairman Nicholas Githemia said they are yet to receive such concerns from new teachers.

Teachers in primary school are trained to teach all subjects and they must do so. However, we have some teachers that are very choosy and always want to dictate which subjects to teach,” said Mr Githemia.

He said teachers must be able to teach 40 lessons per week.

The number of teachers employed by the TSC stands at 317,069 serving 8,071,662 primary school pupils and 2,761,769 at the post primary school level. 

Over 300,000 trained tutors are also yet to be employed by the government.

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