Meeting with the Ministry of Education!
21.07.2010 63 °F
My meeting with the Ministry of Education was absolutely inspiring, to see women and men working to really help the students and have them appreciate the education opportunities they are given. As I mentioned in the earlier post, most of the Wareng district ministers of education are former teachers and moved into the administrative level in order to eradicate the problems they witnessed as educators in the classroom. I could tell from each one of their expressions that they would want to be back working one on one with the kids but the issue is that no teachers are working one on one with the students as enrollment rates are too high and not enough teachers are being hired.
The way the DEO (District Education Office) identifies what students go to school in the area is by going to the village elders and asking who is working and who is going to school. This is where gossip comes in handy as there are no records of everyone living in the area, but the elders know where everyone lives and what they do. I learned though that PTAs (Parent Teacher Associations) play the most important role in the school’s development. PTA members attended a workshop at Moi University in which they discussed infrastructure development and underdevelopment, motivation techniques and key issues at the school. There were about 30 parents total, which is low but good for a first meeting, in which they gave parents questionnaires which the DEO will analyze and are in the process of making ‘taskforce objectives’ for the next school year. Some of the main complaints were that the student –teacher ratio is too high and that teachers’ salaries are too low. Also, the teachers they are hiring are not fresh out of school and therefore are accepting the lower wages to overcome unemployment even if they did not have the best marks at the teacher’s college.
The issue with the teachers isn’t that teachers aren’t available – there are plenty of students going to the teacher’s colleges but with the Free Primary Education initiative, the government distributes to the schools to cover infrastructure costs and teacher salaries. SO either there are less teachers hired at higher (but still negligent salaries) or more teachers hired, with lower marks and qualifications, and lower salaries. The only schools where this is less of an issue is within the private schools. Private schools are seen as a business venture by many of the wealthier men and women in the area as the wealthier families send their children (with tuition fees) to the schools, the tuition fees pay for the teachers salaries AND cushion the pockets of the school directors/businessmen and women. Even at the public school level now, PTAs are bringing in more money to pay for higher salary/better qualified teachers. The DEO explained that understaffing is the main problem – There are 456 secondary schoolsin Wareng, but there needs to be at least another 212 and there are 905 primary schools and they need at least another 302. This is just within Wareng district! The teachers are hired through the TSC and the areas with most neglect are the special education centers and early childhood development centers (ECDC).
- *Free Primary Education gives the school 10,600Kenyan shillings or about $125 USD per student which doesn’t cover books or lunches – just the tuition.
In regards to the percentage of children going to school, according to the assistant chief, 75% of all children in Wareng district attend school but obviously girls are in the minority after primary school. The Maasai people are one of the main ethnic groups in the area and they still practice female cutting and after this event happens in a girls life, she usually does not return to school. I wont go into this topic too much but for those of you who want to look into it, read Waris Dirie’s “Desert Flower “ or check out this website http://www.orato.com/world-affairs/maasai-ritual-of-female-circumcision.
KESSP is the Kenya Education Sector Support Program and is the part of the government that works with donors and is broken in 22 divisions from retention to quality assurance to HIV/AIDS to co-curricular activities. Every 5 years there is a drafted Strategic plan set for each county in Kenya as well as for each of the NGOS (such as PeaceLinks SNV) that dictates what is expected to be accomplished by the end of the 5 year term. It is up to the NGOs and the Ministries of Education to execute the propsed strategic plans and education policies drafted by the Parliament. These women (and man) I met with are responsible for all of the 900+ schools in the area and make sure they are running properly. It is a stressful job, one that they choose willingly because, although they love working at the micro-level within the schools, it is necessary to have a strong, educated, equal male female partnership DEO at the mezzo level to ensure Wareng county schools will be running successfully.
To finish our meeting, we got into quite a heated debate with staff member J. Chelimu about female representation in Parliament. I stayed out of the discussion but eagerly listened to the arguments in which DEO Otheno said that only 12 out of the 210 parliament members are female – which is less than 6%. The Staff member’s argument was that women are still gaining their political rights and that 6% is an ok number to start with and that more women could run if they wanted, but they don’t. Well I don’t know if he realized or not, but he was in a room with 8 other women and no other men. Needless to say he was outnumbered and they began telling him how difficult it was for MP Kamaar of Eldoret East to get into office and how MP Simam was only endorsed by her male counterparts to get former MP Koros out of office.
It was a great afternoon with dedicated women really giving it their all to obtain change. I could honestly tell that they each wanted to be back in the classroom, but they know that by working for the Ministry, they are paving a way for future teachers. There was an article in the Daily Nation in which at an assembly, the secretary of education asked who wanted to be teachers when they were older, and not one hand raised. Why? Because students do not see teaching as a respected, successful profession. Unless something changes, no teachers will be there to teach the next generation of students. These women are making sure that change is put into effect and for that I applaud their efforts.