Teacher Hiring Freeze in Kenya Encourages Innovation
There is a hiring freeze on teachers in Kenya. That means that the government will only hire a new teacher when a government teacher dies or retires from their post.
The Kenyan government recently declared primary school education to be free and open to all citizens. This means parents are no longer expected to pay school fees for their primary school children.
Increasingly large numbers of children are attending primary school (yippee!), but there are not enough teachers to effectively manage them (lame). Schools are overcrowded and understaffed, particularly in the lower grade levels, where there can be as many as 100 students assigned to just one teacher.
In order to address this issue, Nuru Education Program is launching two complementary initiatives: the Nuru Teachers’ Cooperative and the School Business Proposal Program. The teachers’ cooperative is comprised of both government-employed teachers and uncertified teaching staff hired by parents to help manage overcrowding in the classroom. The cooperative’s primary goal is to organize income-generating projects that will enable teachers to empower themselves to improve their work situations, and directly address the issue of understaffing in schools. Every member of the co-operative will work to raise money for the cooperative fund. One of the primary uses of this money will go towards training those “unofficial teachers” hired by the parents.
It will work like this: After working for the cooperative for a certain period of time, uncertified members can apply for cooperative sponsorship to teacher training college. If accepted, teachers must sign a contract committing them to work at a Nuru School for the five years following the completion of teacher certification. If the teacher is fortunate enough to be hired by the ministry of education, they must work with Nuru and the District Education Officer in order to receive government placement in a Nuru School. If the teacher is not employed by the government, he or she is still obligated to work in any school to which Nuru assigns them.
This may seem straightforward enough: We only want to invest money in training teachers who plan to use their skills to improve the state of education in our communities. Yet, a problem arises when Nuru tries to bind fully trained teachers to working on the pay of parent-hired teachers (aka PTA teachers). PTA teachers don’t receive a regular salary. Instead they rely on the meager and irregular contributions of parents for their income. The situation is far from ideal. It’s not uncommon for a PTA teacher to work for almost an entire year without a single payment as they wait for school committees to organize enough funds from reluctant parents (after all, their child’s education is supposed to be free now).
Therefore, even if we required teachers to sign an official contract committing them to work as a PTA teacher after their certification, the temptation for higher and more reliable wages at wealthier, far-away schools would be great. In order to keep these teachers around, we need to offer a reliable and reasonable salary to these teachers. The catch, then, is coming up with a way to pay them without falling into a new trap of NGO-dependency, in which Nuru is providing for a fresh wave of teacher salaries.
Thus, we came up with the School Business Proposal Program. This program is designed to help schools develop a business plan that integrates and addresses each school’s unique set of resources and limitations. As part of this program, we are holding weekly meetings with school head teachers and parent committee chairmen. In these meetings we will help school officials develop a proposal to start a project that will bring in a dependable stream off fresh revenue to the school every month.
Of course, most of these plans will require an up-front capital investment that the schools simply don’t have. At that point, the plan will be submitted to Nuru for review. If the proposal seems viable, we will invest in the project, WITH the stipulation that Nuru has control over how a certain percentage of the subsequent profits are spent. In that way, we will guarantee that the school is able to provide a fair salary to any newly trained Nuru teacher we assign to work there. In all likelihood the payment won’t be equivalent to the amount received by government teachers, but it will be a great improvement from what those teachers had earned as untrained PTA teachers.
In this way, we hope to increase the number of trained teachers working in our overcrowded public schools without creating a dependency on a continuous Nuru cash flow. These two programs will enable us to offer untrained teachers with the opportunity to gain a new skill set and earn a decent living. The benefits are then two-fold, as we improve the education levels of the local teaching staff while simultaneously mitigating the issue of overcrowding in primary schools. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.