Proposals by Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms

The Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms presented its second interim report to President William Ruto last week.

State House has remained quiet on the report, in stark contrast to when the team submitted the first report on December 1 last year.

There were no statements issued and the president’s social media pages did not make references to the meeting of the review delegation led by academician, Prof Raphael Munavu. The first progress report dealt with basic education, specifically the transition from Grade 6 to Grade 7.

Immediately after its submission, the government gave various directives, among them domiciling of junior secondary schools in existing primary institutions and recruitment of 30,000 teachers.

“This was a clear acceptance and endorsement of the first report by President Ruto as he acted immediately based on the report,” said an insider familiar with working of the education task force.

But last Thursday, the team quietly left State House and no communication followed. They have up to end of March to submit its final report.

The Sunday Standard can now reveal finer details of the second progress report of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform that focused on tertiary and teacher education.

The team proposes lowering of entry grades to teachers training colleges from C+ to C, with exceptions to marginalised regions whose entry grade would be further lowered to C­–(minus).

The task force also wants university fees increased from Sh16,000 to Sh52,000, a matter that has over the years drawn sharp reactions from parents and student unions.

And to bail out universities from the present financial mess, the team proposes waiver on debts owed to statutory bodies and recommends an increase in State funding to match enrolment numbers.

Prof Munavu’s team also wants the procedure for the appointment of university top management (VCs, DVCs, Principals and Deputy Principals of constituent colleges) reverted to university councils in consultation with the Education Cabinet Secretary. The law was changed to grant the powers to Public Service Commission.

On middle level training, the team proposes the establishment of more learning institutions from ward, constituency and county level followed with commensurate funding and hiring of more staff.

“The government to establish a national polytechnic in every county, Technical Vocational College in every constituency and Vocational Training Centres in every ward. Recruit an additional 8,817 trainers, at least 50 per cent at the onset and the remainder in a phased approach to resolve the staffing shortage in TVET institutions,” reads report.

The major proposals, however, remain the review on admissions rules to Teachers Training Colleges (TTCs) that the team said has shrunk numbers in the colleges.

The report says the current enrollment in the 34 public pre-service primary teacher training college stands at 3,922, representing only 14.7 per cent. The expected capacity is 26,650 students.

“This means the total idle capacity in the pre-service primary teacher training college is 22,728, representing 85.3 per cent,” reads the report.

The report also says that the current enrollment at the three public diploma in secondary teacher training colleges stands at 1,293, representing 36 per cent, against the expected capacity of 3,600 students.

“This implies that 2,307 (64 per cent) capacity at these colleges lies idle,” reads the report. Its findings show that nearly half of Kenyans interviewed (48.48 per cent) wanted a review of admission entry grades to TTCs. It finds that enrollment has been adversely affected by the revised entry requirements in TTCs.

Presently, the entry grade for Diploma in Secondary Teacher Education (DSTE) – Science and Arts option is C+, yet this is the same as the entry requirement for bachelor’s degrees.

Also, the present cluster requirement for admission to Diploma in Primary Teacher Education (DPTE) has also led to diminished admissions to various colleges. And now, the team proposes that all persons from non-Asal regions seeking to join DPTE to have a mean grade C (plain) or equivalent at Senior School and C- (minus) English or Kiswahili and Mathematics.

Those from Asal regions and trainees with disabilities and special needs will be required to have KCSE mean grade C- minus with with D+ (plus) in English or Kiswahili and D(Plain) in Mathematics.

The task force also proposed that persons seeking to join DSTE to have a mean grade C (plain) with C+ (Plus) in two teaching subjects.

They also suggested requirements for Diploma in Technical Teacher Education (DTTE) to be mean grade C (plain) and C+(Plus) in two STEM teaching subjects.

And for Diploma in Special Needs Education (DSNE), the task force proposes a mean Grade C (plain) or equivalent at Senior School OR C- (minus) for learners with disabilities and special needs.

The trainee for this diploma must however, have qualified first as a primary school teacher (PTE or DPTE). All the pre-service Diploma Teacher Education courses, according to the taskforce, should have a duration of three years.

“The president asked us whether lowering entry grade is the solution to the problems. He asked us to think deeply what the real cause of problem and prescribe a proper solution,” said a source who attended the meeting.

The task force proposal that would however elicit more debate is the recommendation to increase university fees that has over the years been a hot potato. “The fee for government sponsored students (Sh16,000.00) has not been adjusted upwards since 1989. It should be raised up to a minimum of between Sh48,000 and Sh52,000,” reads the report.

During the previous regime, attempts to increase fees flopped even as vice chancellors pushed for the rise. The late former Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha calmed down the anxiety by dismissing VCs attempts to hike fees as students poured on the streets to protest the planned move.

Prof Munavu’s team, however, feels that this could be one of the ways of resuscitating the struggling institutions of higher learning whose debts, it emerged, has now hit Sh61 billion.

As at June 2022, the pending bills were at Sh56.1 billion, according to the task force report. Universities have pending bills of Sh18.6 billion for pensions, another Sh13.7 billion for Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Sh3.8 billion for suppliers.

Universities owe part time lecturers Sh2.6 billion and some Sh4.1 billion is owed to cooperative and Sacco contributions.

The institutions are also yet to pay contractors cumulative debt of Sh1.5b and some Sh1.4b in loan deductions.

Another Sh139 million is yet to be paid to National Social Security Fund  and some Sh2.3 million owed to National Hospital Insurance Fund. The team has advised the president to waive these bills. “A waiver of statutory deductions that are long overdue, as well as outstanding taxes on staff salaries which have accrued due to budget deficits, should be considered. The government should consider bailout conditional grants to settle them,” report reads.

The team also proposed that the government should provide universities with a bailout package for pension, Collective Bargaining Agreements and salary arrears that are pending.

“The penalties and interests on PAYE arrears should be waived; and a conditional grant to cater for the principal PAYE arrears be provided,” reads report.

In addition to these, the task force also advised Ruto to fully implement the present funding formula known as Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC).

“DUC at 80 per cent has not been fully implemented and has been going down from 66 per cent to 48 per cent. The Government should raise the DUC from the current 48.1 per cent to the recommended 80 per cent,” reads report.

DUC is the annual cost of providing a particular degree programme per student, taking into account the staff costs, facility costs and other institutional overhead costs.

On TVETs, the task force proposes an increase in resources allocated to the sub-sector in line with trends in enrolment to cater for expansion of physical facilities, training equipment and ICT infrastructure.

The team also wants the government to finance government-sponsored trainees in public TVET institutions as per the DUC model.

However, sources at the State House meeting told The Sunday Standard that the thinking of the president could be that the present funding formula for universities and TVETs is not sustainable.

“Ruto challenged us to think harder and give a solution. If, for instance, the 80 per cent funding formular under the DUC does not work well, we propose a better one,” said an official who attended the meeting.

Presently, the government is expected to support all learners in universities at a rate of 80 per cent of tuition fees, based on DUC, with the remaining 20 per cent catered for by households (fees) and others. The directive by Ruto to send the working party back to the drawing board comes as education stakeholders said the present funding formular does not support universities as the 80 per cent target is never met.

Over the years the government DUC funding has been dwindling with the 80 per cent target elusive.

Based on the DUC data seen by The Sunday Standard, Sh126.931 billion has been disbursed to public universities in form of grants in the last three financial years. This compares to a Sh187.469 billion DUC requirement at 80 per cent.

TVETs students are presently entitled to a capitation or grant of Sh30,000 and a loan of Sh40,000 per student per year.

The government has progressively established more TVET institutions from 52 in 2013 to 238 in 2021. The student enrolment has also increased from 55,945 in 2013 to 249,316 in 2021.

Currently, Helb funds 104,113 students at a total cost of Sh3.82 billion.

In its report, Helb said this student loan budget could not meet the increasing demand for TVET loans and as a result, 128,893 students from various TVET colleges missed out on loans in the year 2021/2022.

Data seen by The Sunday Standard shows that DUC percentage has decreased over the period from 60.7 per cent in the FY 2019/20 to 53.77 per cent in the FY 2020/21 to a meager 49.51 per cent in the FY 2021/22.

This is a result of more students enrolling in universities as a consequence of government policy mandating 100 per cent transition of students scoring a C+ (Plus) or higher without an equivalent increase in resource allocation.

Consequently, the per-student funding has been reduced, with the DUC rate decreasing from 60.7 per cent to 49.51 per cent.

Sources in the education sector said reduction in the DUC percentage over time has been the major negative impact on higher learning institutions’ financial status, greatly affecting the operations of universities leading to deficit budgets and huge pending bills.

“Attaining the requisite 80 per cent of DUC annually has therefore been a tall order,” reads report by the Universities Fund.

Sources at the State House meeting said Ruto challenged the team to rethink funding formular, if attaining 80 per cent funding is not tenable.

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