Education stakeholders in the North Rift have sounded the alarm over a looming crisis following a mass exit of teachers who have joined politics and other professions.
In West Pokot County, for instance, hundreds of teachers have quit to join the county government, whose jobs are considered more lucrative.
A lot more have quit to join politics and will vie for elective seats in the August General Election.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) says the county has lost more than 400 teachers since 2013. Many went to work for the devolved unit while others joined politics, retired or died.
Mr Martin Sembelo, Knut national executive member for the Rift Valley, is now calling on the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to replace teachers who have quit since devolution started.
Noting that it was not bad for the county government to employ teachers, the Knut official, who is also the West Pokot branch executive secretary, said the county government also needs to consider the impact of the huge exit and that schools in the region need teachers.
“Some have been employed by the county assembly, some are elected MCAs and even MPs and others are nominated. We fear more teachers will go and this will affect learning,” he said.
Retired teachers not replaced
He said most of the teachers who have retired from the service have not been replaced, worsening the situation.
West Pokot TSC Director Bernard Kimachasi noted that the county has a deficit of 2,000 teachers in primary schools and 800 in secondary schools.
“The deficit is felt in the whole country and we need more teachers,” he said.
Sigor MP Peter Lochakapong, a former Kapenguria Boys principal, noted that the delocalisation policy had not helped because teachers from outside the county find it difficult to live and work in the region.
“The poor terrain, harsh climatic conditions and insecurity are a threat to new teachers. Many opt to go away. A teacher from Bungoma County, where there are no sharp hills, cannot teach in West Pokot County because he or she is not used to tough terrain. That’s why most of the teachers are demotivated when they arrive in West Pokot,” he said.
Quit to do farming
He noted that most of the teachers transferred to West Pokot have resigned and resorted to farming as the county grapples with a shortage, resulting in poor performance in primary and secondary schools.
“Many teachers who move from more comfortable areas to hardship areas in West Pokot opt to resign because they are not physically fit to descend and ascend hilly areas where schools are situated,” said Mr Lochakapong.
He said it would be prudent for TSC officers to first visit the county and other hardship areas to assess the situation before transferring teachers to those zones.
“Teachers who are used to the weather and terrain in West Pokot County should be left to teach in places they are comfortable and familiar with,” he said.
Mr Evans Kuyaa, the headteacher of Murwokor Primary School in North Pokot sub-county, said that the school has no other TSC teacher apart from himself.
“We depend on PTA teachers who help in teaching learners at the school,” he said.
Mr Sembelo said more than 100 teachers who vied for political seats in the last two general elections and failed are now at home.
“This is a big loss because we lack teachers yet many are just idle at home,” he said.
“We are facing a major challenge and we want the government to act quickly. A school like Cheptoch has only three teachers.”
He called on the national government to allocate enough funds for TSC to hire new teachers.
“We were marginalised in education and the people qualified to join politics and take up county government jobs are only teachers,” he said.
He also asked the TSC to allocate more slots to marginalised counties when recruiting new teachers.