The Teachers Service Commission has announced vacancies for 10,300 interns to be posted to primary and secondary schools next month.
The huge recruitment drive is a desperate shot at easing a severe teacher shortage in the basic education sector, currently standing at more than 100,000.
It also comes at a time when the government is pushing a 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary school and at the same time implementing the new competency-based curriculum.
TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia has invited those qualified to send in their applications by October 23 and be ready for posting anywhere in the republic.
A total of 4,300 will be deployed in primary schools while 6,000 will be sent to secondary schools.
This is the first time that the TSC is hiring interns in what is simply a stopgap measure to avert a learning crisis in public schools.
The commission was allocated Sh3.2 billion to plug the shortage and has already recruited 5,000 on permanent terms, a figure that is less than half the yearly demand of about 12,626 new teachers. The recruitment will cost the commission about Sh1.2 billion.
According to an advertisement to be published in Tuesday’s newspapers, the applicants should be 35 years or younger, must be registered with the TSC, be jobless and possess a minimum of a P1 certificate for those seeking primary posts, and a Diploma in Education for those joining secondary.
“They must also have a personal accident insurance to cover for personal risks during the 12-month internship period,” says Dr Macharia in the notice, adding that those hired for secondary schools will earn a stipend of Sh15,000 per month while those in primary schools will take home Sh10,000. The stipend will be subject to statutory deductions.
MPs early this year allowed the Commission to recruit 87,393 interns to ease the shortage.
National Assembly Education Committee chairman Julius Melly asked Dr Macharia to develop a policy to be tabled in Parliament to support the recruitment.
Embattled Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary-General Wilson Sossion has backed the recruitment and said the process must adhere to labour laws.
The shortage in secondary schools, which have 2.8 million students, has risen to 95,258 from 57,380 in November last year.
In primary schools, which hold about 10 million pupils, the shortage stands at 30,357, leading to an overall paucity of 125,615.
According to the 2018 Economic Survey, the total enrolment in secondary schools grew by 4.1 per cent from 2.7 million in 2016 to 2.8 million in 2017.
Because the increase in the number of students has not been commensurate with the recruitment of new teachers, the shortage has forced schools to hire teachers through the boards of management, introducing a new cash crisis because the government subsidies are not for personal emoluments.
The capitation fees to schools have gone up by about 33 per cent from last year, with Sh32.7 billion allocated to free secondary education up from Sh28 billion last year and raising the allocation for every student to Sh22,242 from Sh13,000.
The money, however, is not for teacher salaries, and head teachers have to find ways of cutting costs to pay teachers while keeping day-to-day expenditure to a bare minimum.
While the average student-to-teacher ratio is 1:45, a majority of schools are operating with a rate of 1:60 or more, leading to a stressed-out learning environment with minimal teacher-to-student individual contact.
The commission has made it clear that the interns are likely to be absorbed on permanent terms depending on performance and the availability of funds.
In addition to the shortage, an increase in enrolment in both primary and secondary schools as a result of the free basic education programme in primary schools, the free day secondary scheme and the 100 per cent transition to secondary schools campaign has seen the learning conditions deteriorate due to congestion in classes, libraries and dormitories.
Teachers on duty have been forced to take on a heavier work burden to cater for the shortages leading to poor morale and burnout.
Some of the worst hit subjects in teacher distribution are physics, CRE, history, agriculture, English and mathematics because few trainees are taking up the subjects in colleges; while some of those qualified for the disciplines soon move on to greener pastures
From the mid-1990s, TSC began deploying diploma secondary teachers to primary, leading to a huge shortage of CRE and history teachers, most of whom were directly hit by the policy.
The commission has been unable to recreate the balance in secondary schools since then. As the schools grapple with the shortage, a total of 328,324 trained teachers are jobless, according to a recent study by the TSC.