Tough times ahead for headteachers and principals in proposed laws

Tough times ahead for headteachers and principals in proposed laws

Its no longer going to be business as usual for headteachers and principals. A number of changes with dire consequences are set to be injected in schools.

After years of non-compliance, the Ministry of Education is now seeking to stamp authority on the violation of outlawed practices.

The Ezekiel Machogu-led ministry is proposing sweeping reforms aimed at curbing widespread abuses in the country’s basic education system, including the illegal charging of tuition fees, forcing students to repeat classes, conducting admission examinations for new students and physical or psychological punishment.

The proposed changes, outlined in the Basic Education Bill, 2024, have drawn praise and criticism, with some educators expressing concerns about the potential impact on school finances and teacher accountability.

The Bill seeks to introduce strict penalties, including fines of up to Sh20 million for teachers, administrators or managers who violate set regulations.

Under the proposed legislation, head teachers would be held personally liable for offenses such as charging tuition fees, conducting entrance exams for new students, or forcing students to repeat classes. The Bill also guarantees that no child shall be denied access to education due to unpaid fees.

Under the proposed law head teachers will be liable to imprisonment of up to three years for charging tuition fees or a fine of Sh1 million.

Head teachers could also find themselves in trouble for offering school admission tests to new learners or forcing students to repeat a class.

The proposal indicates that no child shall be barred from attending school because of failure to pay extra levies.

“A person who contravenes the provisions of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one million shillings or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years or to both,” reads the Bill.

Teachers union leaders have however come out guns blazing to defend their members from being reprimanded over school finances.

Kenya National Union of Teachers secretary general Collins Oyuu challenged the government to include the capitation in the proposed new law and the official fees for all category of schools.

“Let’s entrench the issue of capitation in the law. Our members are suffering because the ministry promises to give money but then ends up sending a fraction of the same,” said Oyuu.

He argued that head teachers act on behalf of the Boards of Management (BoM), which is responsible for the hike in fees.

“In any case, it is not the school heads that decide if there is any increment in the amount paid. It is the Boards of Management which represent the Ministry of Education,” Oyuu said.

The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) also raised concerns about the classification of offenses, questioning whether violations like unauthorised holiday tuition and extra levies should be treated solely as criminal offenses or also carry administrative consequences.

This distinction, TSC legal director Cavin Anyuor says, is crucial for the employer to take appropriate disciplinary action against teachers involved in such activities.

“There are offenses which are created under the Basic Education Act. Holiday tuition, and extra levies should be a criminal or administrative offence?” He posed.

The proposals will be considered by the technical team fine-tuning the draft proposal before it is presented to Parliament.

Machogu in an interview on Friday said that the proposals will be presented to Cabinet before they are sent to the Education Committee in Parliament.

Further, proposals will restrict head teachers from dictating where a parent or guardian can procure or purchase personal effects such as uniforms.

Education Ministry has in the past issued circulars warning head teachers against the practice, but schools remain non-compliant.

Headteachers will also be punished if they  block learners from attending school based on bias of employment, religion, parental conflict or cultural practices or on any other ground.

“A person who contravenes sub-section (1) commits an offense and is liable to fine not exceeding five million or to a period not exceeding five years or to both,” states the proposals.

The use of corporal punishment also came under scrutiny in the proposals as the Basic Education Bill outlaws the subjection of learners to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, both physical or psychological. 

The Bill vests power to develop disciplinary measures in the Cabinet Secretary including regulations to prescribe suspension and expulsion of a learner from school.

Teachers who violate the provision will be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh100,000 or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both. 

On the other hand, anyone aiding in the illegal registration of a school will face a fine of up to Sh20 million.

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