Demotion of non-graduate primary school headteachers will start in January 2024 when reforms proposed by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) are implemented.
Under the guidelines, headteachers of primary schools hosting Junior Secondary School (JSS) at the time of implementing the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) are to head them for an interim period that lapses on December 30, 2023.
The PWPER proposes the creation of a single unit that will incorporate the current pre-school, primary school and JSS in the same compound under a single headteacher.
In the new suggestions by the education reforms team, the single unit encompassing all the three levels will be known as Comprehensive School headed by a principal.
The principal will be assisted by teachers who will head nursery, primary and junior schools and they will be referred to deputy principals. They must all be graduate teachers.
There are more than 23,000 public primary schools in Kenya, most approved by the Ministry of Education to host JSS.
The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and the ministry will be mandated to come up with guidelines on senior teachers who will work under the head.
Current headteachers who will not qualify for headship of the comprehensive schools are expected to be given lesser roles.
They will, therefore, lose control of school operations and funds.
Some schools have been operating without substantive heads as the commission failed to attract applicants for the administrative positions.
The positions have been advertised since December 2022.
Teachers unions blame the commission for the situation, arguing that thousands of tutors have stagnated in the same job groups and therefore do not qualify for promotion to the administrative positions.
The placement of JSS in primary schools was recommended by the PWPER in December last year and began in January 2023, in a reversal of the earlier intention by the Jubilee administration.
JSS comprises Grade 7, 8 and 9. The recommendations by the reforms team are expected to be implemented over two years, while the implementation of some has begun.
According to the draft PWPER report that is to be launched by President William Ruto next week, the head of the comprehensive school will be the accounting officer of all the sections under it.
Equally to change is the composition of the school Board of Management (BOM).
For now, the JSSs are managed by an interim sub-committee drawn from the primary school BoM.
The PWPER also proposes that members of the BoM not exceed nine or 10. It says the current boards are bloated.
In another proposal, the heads of the comprehensive and senior secondary schools will be agents of the Ministry of Education and not the TSC.
At the centre of the changes is the control of billions shillings channelled to schools.
There is a feeling that the ministry has no say on the usage of the funds since headteachers and principals are employees of the TSC, which is an independent constitutional commission.
The PWPER proposals will see the ministry gain much of the control it lost after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.
Previously, the commission used to operate under the ministry.
Prime Cabinet Secretary, Musalia Mudavadi, hinted at the looming changes when he launched the 2023-2027 TSC Strategic Plan at the Kenya School of Government on Thursday.
“I understand there have been differences of opinion between the TSC, teachers and parents over whether there has been effective teacher re-orientation on CBC and the quantity of teachers required for its effective implementation,” Mr Mudavadi said.
“Separately, the TSC has issues with the parent ministry on who should appoint school heads. Pending the report of the task force on CBC, nothing stops us from talking with each other and feeding the task force with consensus position ideas.
I firmly believe that if you choose to criticise, do so while offering an alternative. Don’t condemn. Have the candour to offer solutions.”
However the proposal to demote primary school headteachers lacking degree certificates in January 2024 is being opposed by teachers unions.
Kenya National Union of Teachers top officials have rejected the proposal by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms to have primary school head teachers without degrees demoted.
Knut Secretary General Collins Oyuu says the proposal would be the worst labour practice, and the union will not accept it.
“About 99 per cent of head teachers in primary schools are graduates. If anybody thinks head teachers in primary schools are not graduates, then you are wrong,” said Oyuu.
However, he said if there are head teachers without degrees, the union wants them to be allowed to proceed to study without being demoted.
He said most of the teachers in question are qualified to attain degrees.
Oyuu was addressing Knut Coast regional officials at Ronald Ngala Primary School in Mombasa county.
“If there is any teacher who is not a graduate and is a head teacher, we will insist they be allowed to proceed to university and attain the qualification.”
He said the union supports other changes proposed by the team, adding that there is a need to scrap Junior Secondary School (JSS) and Senior Secondary School and have it replaced with a comprehensive school.
Oyuu said the comprehensive school should start from Early Child Development Education (ECDE) level to Grade 12, under one umbrella headed by one principal, unlike where JSS is domiciled in primary and then moves to senior secondary school with different head teachers.
He also supported the recommendation to reduce the powers of the TSC and give them to the Ministry of Education, saying there is always conflict between the ministry and TSC.