Use interns to fill gaps in teacher deployment

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Plans by Government to hire 16,847 intern teachers for primary, secondary and technical institutions are a welcome solution to a staffing challenge that has been difficult to address — reducing class sizes bloated by the Free Primary Education programme and subsidises for tuition in high schools.

Teacher-student ratios have a direct impact on both the cost and quality of education. The introduction of FPE has seen enrolment in primary schools go from 5.9 million in 2002 to 8.1 million currently. Meanwhile, secondary schools, which had 778,601 students in 2002, now accommodate over 1.37 million.

Teacher numbers, on the other hand, have remained largely unchanged at 245,000 with only the 10,000 or so lost by natural attrition replaced each year.

The poor distribution of these teachers in favour of urban areas and the relatively low workload of those teaching certain subjects have meant that these numbers don’t count for much in addressing the class size problems. It is instructive that even with the increased enrollment of the last five years, Kenya’s teacher-student ratio is just 38:1.

Greater Flexibility

With the new ‘intern’ teachers hired on two-year contracts, the Teacher’s Service Commission has greater flexibility to address demand for teachers and improve the quality of education offered countrywide while limiting the cost to the taxpayer. Teacher’s salaries are closing in on a billion dollars a year, thanks to increases agreed last month: Solutions like these are, therefore, welcome.

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