Nairobi, Kenya: Qualified but desperate teachers pay corrupt officials at the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) millions of shillings in bribes every year to get recruited.
The racket, which began even before TSC announced its current recruitment of 10,000 teachers, includes senior officials taking bribes from head teachers so their schools can be considered for new postings.
Schools file returns with TSC detailing the shortage of teachers for respective subjects and ideally, the needy should get priority whenever there is recruitment.
As a stopgap measure, some schools hire teachers paid by the schools’ Board of Governors (BoG) and head teachers have to part with a bribe to be absorbed by TSC.
So thriving is the kickback system that the term “a month’s notice” has been coined to denote the equivalent of a BoG-employed teacher’s salary payable to TSC officials as a bribe so they can be considered for recruitment.
Some of the teachers interviewed by The Standard said the practice has been going on for years and is not confined to the recruitment that began mid-last month.
TSC prepared a list of vacancies in schools between August and December last year for the recruitment that is underway.
The head teachers part with as little as Sh2,000 and a maximum of Sh30,000 to have teaching positions advertised in their schools.
One of the transactions seen by The Standard is from a teacher from Laikipia West who sent a senior TSC officer based in Nyahururu Sh5,100 on August 8 last year.
He later sent Sh1,550 on August 24 to the same officer as he was demanding Sh6,500. And sure enough the school was ranked as those which had vacancies in the subject the teacher is specialised in.
“The officers claim that the head teachers have to give one month’s notice, which means the equivalent of a month’s salary for teachers they employ under the BoG. They even claim a three-month salary,” said another jobless teacher.
Another teacher at a school in Laikipia East told The Standard that he paid Sh30,000 in January for his school to be advertised among those that had a teacher shortage.
“You have to act smart with the TSC by giving an early notice. Why spend so much money on teachers employed by the BoG instead of giving part of it to the officers to play your cards?” he asked.
“A day before I went for an interview, I was asked by the head teacher of a school in which I was to be posted to accept a three-month salary deduction, explaining the amount had been paid to TSC officials to have the post advertised.
“Because I had laboured for long in search for a job, I accepted, and that is how I got this job. I don’t know if other interviewees were also called, but it happens a lot in our schools,” said another teacher in a public school in Kakamega County.
A P1 teacher who graduated in 2007 said she had failed to secure a job because she could not raise the Sh150,000 bribe demanded by TSC officials to be employed and posted to a school of her choice.
TSC Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni acknowledged that such corrupt individuals may exist in an institution, but appealed to the public to help by providing information to deal with the culprits.
Lengoiboni warned that any TSC official colluding with teachers to give them favours will be dismissed and prosecuted.
“TSC is a big institution and such characters exist. We need information so that we can deal with them. We want to get rid of them, but as long as the public still insists on colluding with them, it will be difficult,” said Lengoiboni.
He cautioned head teachers against paying bribes as new postings will be distributed based on verifiable needs. He added: “TSC has a database of all the schools with the teacher shortage and other needs. Those principals who are paying bribes to get more teachers are being conned. We will only post teachers where they are needed and not to any school that pays for it. TSC services are free.”
Lengoiboni insisted that the recruitment exercise that ends this week would be clean.
“There should be no worry because issues arising from the recruitment are normally dealt with at the headquarters once we receive all the applications from the TSC county directors,” he explained.
According to a hiring schedule seen by The Standard, all TSC county directors were expected to have returned ‘a clean and comprehensive list’ of successful candidates by last Friday.
The vetting exercise of the final names presented to the commission’s head office begins today. The new teachers will report to their workstations on September 15.
The teachers’ employer is set to recruit 10,300 tutors in both primary and secondary schools to bridge a biting shortage. The teachers’ employer says out of the 5,000 new teachers to be employed, 2,479 are for primary schools and 2,521 for secondary schools.
In addition, 4,663 and 676 teachers in primary and secondary schools respectively will be hired to replace those who quit. The Government set aside Sh2.3 billion in the budget to cater for the exercise in this financial year (2014/2015).
TSC had announced that another 5,339 teachers would be recruited to replace those who left the service due to natural attrition (retirement, resignation and death).
Lengoiboni said the replacements would cover the period up to September 1 this year, and that the current teacher shortage is a shocking 90,000. Teachers’ unions demanded additional funds to recruit half the number required.
Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary (Knut) General Wilson Sossion said they had not received any complaints on the recruitment.
But Sossion said there are some TSC officials demanding money from head teachers for promotion.
Sossion said they are reviewing 27 files from teachers from Imenti North and Meru Central districts who have been interdicted for drawing salaries for promoted teachers yet the promotions were irregular.
“We have received files from 27 teachers who were interdicted by TSC for earning payments arising from promotions yet they received calls from TSC over the same. It seems there is a cartel operating at the TSC payroll section and making demands. We want our education system free from corruption,” said Sossion.
He claimed cartels within TSC use anonymous numbers to threaten teachers to pay them up to Sh13,100 so that they can be promoted and their salaries adjusted.
Lengoiboni said they interdicted the teachers after the system showed that they continued to draw irregular salaries.
“When we realised that some teachers had been drawing salaries irregularly, we called them to our offices to explain, but some failed to show up. So we interdicted them as disciplinary action,” explained Lengoiboni.
Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers Chairman Omboko Milemba cautioned head teachers against colluding with extortionists.
“We will write to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate these allegations and arrest the culprits. We are cautioning our principals not to give any money to influence teacher posting in their schools,” said Milemba.
He said that unsuspecting teachers had also fallen prey to fraudsters masquerading as TSC officers, and asked any teacher who has been approached to report the matter to the nearest branch.
By RAWLINGS OTIENO, The Standard