On the Teachers' Strike

Posted by on 9th September 2011

Categories:   News

The public education system needs more than just the hiring of new teachers to correct everything that’s wrong with it. Some would say the whole 8.4.4 system needs an overhaul to stay relevant. However if the government does nothing else with regard to reforming the public education system this yea, it should hire more teachers.

The internationally recommended teacher student ratio is 1 to 35. Student ratio in most of Kenya’s public schools is one teacher for every 50 students. In some schools the teacher pupil ratio is as high as 1 to 100.

With those kind numbers it’s hardly surprising that this week 240,000 teachers launched an open ended, nation wide strike, which affects 10 million primary and secondary school children. The teachers are demanding the government hire more educators to ease over crowding in classrooms. KNUT (Kenya National Union of Teachers) estimates 79,000 are teachers needed to cover the deficit.

A 1 to 100-teacher student ratio and a 79,000 deficit in teacher numbers has detrimental on both the educators and the children. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the quality of education is reduced as the ratio increases. In fact with such a ratio one wonders how many children that graduate from class to class acquire even the most basic literacy and numeracy skills? Or how one teacher teaching 50 plus students to manages to ensure a well managed classroom and a skilful assessment of all 50 plus children to facilitate learning and reduce disparities? My guess is that as the teacher student ratio increases, education in public schools may become more about crowd control than actual teaching.

The government response to the teachers strike has been varied some MPs have threatened to stop the enactment of the Finance and Appropriations Bills if the demand for employment of additional teachers is not meant. The Minister of Education proposed the hiring of 20,000 on temporary contracts, an idea that was quickly shot down by the KNUT. The Finance Minister has stated unequivocally that there is no money in the budget for the employment of additional teachers.

Given that’s understaffing in public schools is no secret and long term negative implications of the shortage of teachers on the society why did the government divert money from the budget meant for hiring new teachers to the Department of Defence?