The race to recruit a substantive chairperson for the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has started in earnest.
This is after a selection panel appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta called for applications from interested and qualified persons to replace Lydia Nzomo whose term expired in November last year.
Dr Nzomo was the first chairperson to be recruited competitively since the promulgation of the new Constitution in 2010.
The panel will also hire one commissioner for Rift Valley after the position was not filled last year. Two commissioners, Mbage Njuguna Ng’ang’a and Leila Abdi Ali, were appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta to represent Central and North Eastern regions respectively.
The recruitment followed the retirement of commissioners Cleophas Tirop (Rift Valley), Salome Gichura (Central) and Saadia Abdi Kontoma (North Eastern) in 2019 after the end of their six-year terms.
Margaret Lesuuda and Mary Rotich, from Rift Valley, had been nominated by the selection panel to replace Mr Tirop.
The recruitment process focused on regional and gender balance. Persons with disability were also encouraged to apply for the jobs.
Usually, regions that are already represented by sitting commissioners score fewer points in the interview process. It is, however, not clear if this will be the case as five commissioners are expected to exit before the end of this month.
Commissioners Beatrice Adu, Mbarak Twahir, Kinoti Imanyara, Tache Gollo and Albert Ekirapa will leave office on March 19.
Their exit will set in motion a rush to reconstitute a selection panel in line with Section 8(13) of the TSC Act, which states: “The panel shall stand dissolved upon the appointment of the chairperson and members.”
This means that the mandate of the current selection panel, which is chaired by Thomas Koyier, will be to recruit one member and the chairperson.
Panel members are Mary Gaturu, who represents the Ministry of Education, Charles Mutinda, who represents the Attorney General’s office, Njoki Kahiga, who represents the Ministry of Public Service, and Margaret Lilan Geno, who represents the Federation of Kenya Employers.
Others are Richard Kibagendi and Hellen Hazel Miseda, who represent the registered teachers’ trade unions, Eva Naputuni Nyoike, who represents the Kenya Private Schools Association, and Stanley Waudo, an educationist.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Wilson Sossion said the present panel should be allowed to advertise vacancies for the five commissioners whose term expires in two weeks’ time. “There is no need in constituting another panel to recruit the five commissioners. This one can still do the job.”
In a paid-up advertisement, Mr Koyier said candidates for the position of chairperson must be holders of a degree from a recognised university in Kenya.
The candidates must also have knowledge and experience of at least 10 years in education, governance, management or law.
The position is not open to Members of Parliament or County Assemblies, or anybody serving in any governing body, political party or local authority.
Also to be locked out of the top job are candidates found to have misused or abused public offices, or in any way contravened Chapter Six of the Constitution.
“Applications must reach the panel secretariat on or before March 19 at 5pm Kenyan time,” reads the communication.
Koiyer assured Kenyans that the team will deliver on their mandate according to the law and in the stipulated time.
The call for applications came one day after the panel was inaugurated. Public Service Commission vice chairperson Charity Kisotu oversaw the exercise.
Ms Kisotu urged panel members to be diligent in their work, noting that they were “carefully selected and clearly represent diverse interests in the education sector”.
“I have no doubt that you are fully aware of how critical the education sector is in this country. This is rightly demonstrated by the stakeholder representation that constitutes this selection panel,” she said.
The vice chairperson said the selection panel had been appointed at a critical time when the government is rolling out curriculum reforms in the education sector, hence the need to conclude the exercise as soon as possible.
Kennedy Kihara, who represented Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, urged the selection panel to strictly follow the law while undertaking the exercise and present the best nominees to the appointing authority.
“The government is undergoing a lot of transformation and we must ensure and facilitate public participation in everything we do,” said Mr Kihara.
Also present was Public Service Principal Secretary Mary Kimonye, who represented Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia.
“The integrity of the process is what I want to emphasize. The work you are doing ought to be taken with humility, commitment, honesty and objectivity so that the outcome will be acceptable to all,” said Ms Kimonye.
Teachers Service Commission Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia said they were looking forward to getting the best chairperson and member from the selection process.
Section 8(4) of the TSC Act requires that the chairperson of the selection panel convene the first meeting within seven days of appointment. “The selection panel shall, within seven days of convening, invite applications from persons who qualify for nomination and appointment as chairperson or member of the commission by advertisement in at least two daily newspapers of national circulation.”
This means that within 14 days from the first meeting, the team will call for applications from interested candidates. And within five days after receiving the applications, the panel will shortlist and interview the applicants.
After the interviews, the panel will forward the names of the successful applicants to President Kenyatta who, within seven days of receipt of the names, will forward them to the National Assembly for approval or rejection.