The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) will work to tackle the shortage of teachers in public schools in Mandera County, an official has said.
TSC chairman Jamleck Muturi said Mandera is among areas that are “hard to staff”.
“We shall try our best to give Mandera more opportunities in the next advertisement for recruitment of teachers than other regions to help close the gap. This is an area referred to as hard to staff but we shall try our best,” he said.
Mandera suffered a major setback in the education sector in 2015 when the TSC transferred several teachers from the county over insecurity.
Teachers had refused to return to Mandera and even camped at the TSC headquarters in Nairobi for weeks seeking transfers after a terror attack in 2014.
At least 28 people travelling to Nairobi in a bus were killed in the attack, a majority of them teachers proceeding for their December holidays.
Today, Mandera needs at least 1,812 teachers to fill vacancies in 311 public primary schools and another 409 in 59 public secondary schools.
At least 90 public schools in Madera, mostly primary, have only one teacher. Some 25 are in Mandera West constituency, but this has been blamed on the mushrooming of “political schools”.
Mr Muturi said that his presence in Mandera meant that security had improved and wondered why teachers continued to fear being sent to the county.
“The issue of insecurity does not matter because the commission is on the ground and I can confirm that the situation has improved. We are going back to evaluate all that we have gathered and make a decision,” he said.
Mr Muturi, a former minister in the Embu County government, lauded Governor Ali Roba’s commitment to supporting education.
Attempts by the county government to tackle the teacher shortage flopped in 2020 when the national government introduced diploma training for teachers.
The county had spent at least Sh250 million to build and equip Mandera Teachers Training College in 2016 and enrolled at least 300 students for P1 teacher training.
The Cabinet secretary for Education at the time, Amina Mohamed, had allowed students with a mean grade of D+ to train as teachers but the tables were turned in 2020.
“We have had more than 300 students graduate with P1 teaching certificates but since the system was changed to diploma training, our college collapsed,” said Principal Abdirashid Haji Shabure.
The college was closed for lack of students with the required entry mean grade of C plain.
Local leaders, led by Mandera Deputy Governor Mohamed Arai, accused the TSC of denying local children their right to education.
“Mandera is and remains part of Kenya. It is the responsibility of the national government to provide education to all and that is a constitutional right to every child,” he said, urging TSC to send teachers to Mandera.
Mr Arai said the county government had hired untrained teachers to fill the gap but the TSC has failed to play its role.
Nation.Africa has learnt that the untrained teachers worked for only five months. They quit when the county government failed to pay them.
Mr Arai appealed for immediate recruitment of newly trained teachers to fill vacancies in Mandera.
Without giving a figure, the deputy governor said many students were dropping out of school due to lack of teachers.
“We are risking having our youths radicalised and recruited into terror cells because our school dropout rate is high, just like our poverty index,” he said.
Other TSC commissioners who visited Mandera were Leila Abdi and Salesa Abudo, escorted by Mandera West MP Yusuf Adan Haji and his Lafey counterpart Abdi Mude.
Local political leaders pressed the commissioners to explain why TSC was taking so long to hire teachers for Mandera.
Darkale Ward Rep Yakub Hassan wondered how militants only targeted teachers when many other government employees continued to work in the county.
“We have over 10,000 non-Somalis working in different sectors in Mandera and I don’t understand why it is only the teachers who are threatened. The problem facing Mandera is not by teachers themselves but by the TSC headquarters,” he said.
He added: “TSC transferred all the teachers but only gives us a few slots when it comes to recruitment to fill the gap. Insecurity is everywhere but the situation in Mandera has since improved.”
Rhamu Ward Rep Kullow Alio Guyow also blamed the challenges bedevilling the Mandera education sector on TSC.
“TSC is just not listening to our problems and it does not care at all about Mandera and her children. Those presenting our issues from Mandera are either not telling the commission the truth or the commission is just ignoring them,” he said.
The Mandera County government, he said, had been forced to take over the national government function of ensuring learning goes on in schools.
He warned that the county assembly would no longer approve budgets to support education until the TSC deploys more teachers.
Mr Haji, the Mandera West MP, urged TSC to find a new way of staffing Mandera schools.
“We need affirmative action for Mandera and that is what will solve our problem. We need special consideration for intakes into teacher training colleges for us to have enough teachers,” he said.
He proposed lowering the intake mean grade for teacher-trainees from Mandera.
He also urged TSC to promote and confirm all teachers who are serving in acting capacity.
There are 59 headteachers and 24 principals working in acting capacity across Mandera, according to the local Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) office.
“How can a teacher remain in the same job group for more than nine years when he or she applies every time promotions are announced?” Mr Haji wondered.
He questioned how only teachers in public schools in Mandera are affected by insecurity when those in private schools continue working.
“All private schools in Mandera have non-local teachers working comfortably yet the TSC has moved those in public schools because of insecurity. How can one explain this?” he asked.
Mr Mude, the Lafey MP, challenged the TSC to reconsider its staffing decision regarding Mandera.
“We have more than enough security officers in Mandera and we need teachers back in class. We have Kenyan teachers teaching in Somalia but we cannot have them in our own schools,” he said.
The local community, he added, would ensure security is beefed up in schools and that police reservists are deployed to provide security to teachers.
Mandera County Commissioner Onesmus Kyatha confirmed the presence of security officers in schools in areas marked as insecure.
“We have ensured that there are police reservists in several schools and in some parts we have allowed teachers to reside inside the security camps for their own safety,” he said.
The three TSC commissioners were on what they called a fact-finding mission in Mandera, Wajir and Garissa counties.
The blame game continued in Wajir and Garissa, with Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji threatening to charge TSC over what he said was TSC’s failure to protect teachers in areas prone to insecurity.
Mr Haji said it is the responsibility of the teachers’ employer to find solutions to issues affecting teachers.
The TSC’s inaction, he said, has led to the violation of children’s right to education.
“I can charge the whole commission under Section 7 of the Children Act for refusing to provide education to Kenyan children,” he said.