Once President William Ruto’s Cabinet nominees are vetted and approved by Parliament, the focus will quickly shift to the execution of their mandate in their respective dockets.
The vetting exercise is underway with four Cabinet nominees including Alfred Mutua for Ministry of Labour, and Aden Duale for Ministry of Defence already vetted.
Whereas some ministries do not face tasks that require urgent attention, some of the cabinet secretaries will literally have to hit the ground running soon after assuming office owing to the critical nature of pending issues in their respective ministries.
One such individual is Ezekiel Machogu, the man Ruto has entrusted with running of the Education docket amidst impending reforms in the sector.
Outgoing Education CS George Magoha on August 22 warned that the position calls for a person of strong character.
“Work is not at Jogoo House, it’s out in the field. If you sit in the office and wait for reports, you’ll be surprised,” Magoha said.
Magoha, a fierce defender of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC), defended his track record and said he is proud of his achievements.
“All these preparations make me comfortable that my successor will find a good script to follow in the implementation of CBC,” he said.
And true to Magoha’s words, the former Kisii governor aspirant has an uphill task awaiting him should MPs approve his nomination.
On September 30, Ruto formed a 49-member task force to evaluate the CBC as well as recommend appropriate reforms in tertiary education at the university level.
The Working Party chaired by Prof Raphael Munavu is to brief the President every two months and submit its final report in six months’ time.
If approved by Parliament, Machogu’s most immediate task will be to implement CBC reforms without fail.
Among them is a review of laws governing the education sector to address duplication, ambiguities, efficiency constraints and improve linkages.
The team is also required to make recommendations on assessment and examination framework, technology for curriculum delivery and teacher education, training and deployment framework.
The formation of the task force coincided with growing complaints from parents that the CBC is too expensive.
Former Parents Association chairperson Nicholas Maiyo cited poor grasp of the system on the part of teachers as a possible reason the curriculum was too expensive.
A number of parents told the Star the system needed to be reviewed to stop overloading parents and pupils with a lot of extra work.
“I’m okay with it, my only concern is these numerous assignments we are being offered as parents.”
Another parent questioned the amount of printing work demanded by teachers.
“In the village, most people don’t have smartphones, how will their homework be assessed?” another parent asked.
All these questions are a migraine Machogu must heal under the guidance of recommendations of the task force.
The transition of Grade 6 learners to Junior high school is another immediate concern the new CS will have to ensure is seamless.
The task force is required to recommend an appropriate implementation structure for the transition.
As things stand, pioneer sixth graders are expected to sit the inaugural Kenya Primary School Education Assessment on November 28.
If the task force maintains the status quo, come January, Grade 6 learners will start their secondary education.
However, some parents said their children, aged between 12 and 14, will be too young to join Junior secondary.
“Let the content remain but Grade 6 proceed to Grade 8 and 9 before joining secondary school,” one said.
Machogu’s other high-priority concern will be overseeing national exams, barely one and a half months away.
Magoha on Monday announced that KCPE and KCSE exams will begin on November 28.
He said marking will be completed in December and examination results released by January 23 next year.
And as if to brief his successor on teachers’ most pressing concerns, Kenya National Union of Teachers ( KNUT) Secretary General Collins Oyuu urged the government to give teachers a 60 per cent pay hike.
He said teachers are demoralised as they are being paid peanuts by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).
“To motivate teachers, the TSC should consider increasing their pay,” he said while speaking at Kerugoya Catholic Church grounds in Kirinyaga during the post-World Teachers Day celebrations.
At the higher education level, rising tuition fees in public universities is probably the most pressing issue parents and students will want addressed as a matter of urgency.
Already, Kenyatta University student leaders have rejected the proposal to increase tuition fees.
“Students from poor families have a higher probability of dropping out of school than their counterparts from rich backgrounds,” Kenya Universities’ Students Organisation (Kuso) President Antony Muchui said.
The students’ concerns are coupled with those of members of the academic staff from various universities who in early September called on the new government to increase funding to public universities.
They further said they want their salaries increased claiming they have been reduced to almost half.
Magoha on September 10 denied being aware of any strike threats from universities’ academic staff unions but said any pressing issues will have to be addressed by the incoming regime.
“If there are issues of disputes as far as anything is concerned, you don’t just wake up in the morning and say you want to go on strike on Monday. The strike has to be protected, you have to give notice,” Magoha said.
Dissenting voices may have quietened, but since underlying grievances remain unresolved, a simmering storm that may threaten learning in public universities in the coming days is still alive and it will be incumbent upon Machogu to calm it.