Prof. Ongeri, Minister for
Schools re-open this week in the backdrop of recent violent strikes in secondary schools which have brought into sharp focus the role of the Ministry of Education in the management of the public education system in Kenya.
Management is the art of getting people together to accomplish desired goals through planning, organising, sourcing, leading or directing, and controlling an organisation or effort for the purpose of accomplishing a goal. Education Management focuses attention on strategies for keeping education resources current, up to date, and accessible. It is ensuring that people have the most recent and suitable education to do their work.
The Education Act, 1968 defines a manager as any person or body of persons responsible for the management and conduct of a school, and includes a Board. The Act, read together with the Teachers Service Commission Act, Cap. 212, confers extensive powers on the Minister of Education over the management and regulation of education in Kenya.
The two acts give the minister extensive latitude to delegate his powers to local authorities, District Education Boards or Boards of Governors.
Tertiary institutions and public secondary schools are administered by Boards of Governors appointed by the Minister whereas Primary schools are managed by School Committees appointed by local authorities. The boards and committees are responsible for the hire and remuneration of support and subordinate staff in public schools.
The boards also act as the custodians and trustees of the movable and immovable property of their respective schools. The principals and headmasters of these institutions serve as the secretaries and executive officers to the boards of governors or school committees as the case may be.
The Public Procurement and Disposal Act, 2005 has granted teachers the power to control the tendering and procurement process in public schools. The Teachers Service Commission Act allows the Teachers Service Commission to delegate its powers relating to the hiring, control and discipline of teachers to Boards of Governors inter alia. The disbursement and utilisation of government funds under the Free Primary Education (FPE) and Free Secondary Education (FSE) programmes is subject to the provisions of the Government Financial Management Act, 2004.
The boards of governors are mandated by the Education Act to audit and regulate expenditure by the administration to ensure that all the income received by the school is applied for the promotion of the objects of the school. These statutes presume that members of the Boards of Governors and teachers are knowledgeable in Law, Human Resources Management, Supply Chain Management, Accounting and Project management. That is where the main problem in the management in public schools lies.
The Ministry of Education continues to employ archaic techniques in the administration of education institutions. The tools for the management and evaluation of public education institutions have remained static for a long time despite the rapid technological, socio-cultural and economic changes in the country.
Management organs such as Boards of Governors are constituted so as to include representatives of the communities served by the school, persons representing any voluntary body which was the founder of the school or its successor, and any other persons or representatives of bodies or organisations that, in the opinion of the Minister, should be included.
There are no set criteria enumerating the skills a person should possess to qualify for appointment into a board. Service in School Boards is not remunerated and consequently most professionals opt to stay away from it. The result is that most public schools are managed by old and unenergetic retirees, semi-literate business people or other semi-skilled non-professionals.
This has created a managerial gap in most public schools in rural Kenya. The old managers cannot cope up with the rapid social, technological, economic and cultural changes in our country. The managers are more often than not erudite in elementary law and cannot readily grasp the provisions of the Education Act or the basic concepts in management of public finance, human resource management and organizational management.
The Education Act is also inexplicably lenient on imprudent school boards. Suspension and forced resignation are the only penalties the minister can impose on an errant board.
School boards composed of members who do not possess managerial skills; expertise and experience are a major source of discontent among students and parents. Parents typically oppose a school administration if they perceive it to be incompetent, opaque or unaccountable. Students on the other hand engage in insidious conduct to protest against such managers. Initially it was possible to “cover-up” such managerial ineptitudes through authoritarian leadership.
Before the enactment of the Children’s Act, 2001, school heads would use actual or threats of corporal punishment to forestall complaints from students. This explains why the protests have become more pronounced and dangerous since the use of corporal punishment in schools was abolished and replaced with guidance and counseling.
Apart from appointing representatives to the board, religious organisations which sponsored or founded most public schools in Kenya, play a peripheral role in managing the schools. They should get more involved since they can play a complimentary role in guiding and counseling adolescent students. Religious leaders exercise both temporal and spiritual authority and can exert moral pressure on delinquent students to infuse behavioural change.
Whereas parents are very quick to blame the school administration when things go wrong in a school, they also shy away from making a conscious effort and practical contribution to the management of the institutions. They are content to play the perfunctory roles of paying school fees, electing Parents Teachers Association (PTA) representatives and attending annual general meetings once a year. Parents should get actively involved and support the school administration in matters of enforcing discipline.
There is a dire need to change the training curriculum for teachers to include new subjects which will equip teachers with elementary working knowledge in Accounting, Planning, Financial Management and Project Management. The Ministry of Education should also develop a criterion for the appointment of members of boards of governors and create a common Project Monitoring and Evaluation Tool for managers of public schools. It is important for the government, parents, school managers and educationists to review the current system of managing public institutions to attract more professionals and allow full and equitable participation by all the stakeholders.