Education Cabinet Secretary in a Bind Over Insults

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The Education Cabinet Secretary, Professor Magoha, is in a bind after being caught on camera calling a senior education officer stupid. “Wewe ni mjinga kabisa”, as he said, before sending the man away. The CS was formerly an officer with the Kenya National Examinations Council and has made a name for himself as a no-nonsense leader. The CS came under a lot of fire on Twitter after the video went viral. 

The CS was unhappy with building material that was scattered in a school he made an impromptu visit to last week, Langas Primary School. The man on the receiving end was later identified as the County Director of Education for Uasin Gishu. As a senior official in the education sector in the county, the elderly man was mistreated and has since expressed wanting to leave the job. The Public Service Commission, PSC, came out and repudiated the CS’s human resource management responsibilities, a move that was taken as a call for brazenness by the CS.

The education CS was seen to almost make an apology this week saying nobody is perfect, before holding back and making a statement that he would not relent. In his words, he will continue to undertake the mandate he was given by his ‘appointing authority’ with ‘zeal’ for the good of Kenyan children, their parents, and all education stakeholders. CS Magoha is a respected leader and has been seen as an enforcer in ensuring that the education vision of the current administration is actualized. He made the statement as a reply to the actions of the PSC, asserting that only the president can direct him otherwise. 

Even so, the CS overstepped and for whatever reason, was in the wrong by insulting his subordinate. The COVID-19 pandemic has made planning in the education sector and school reopening efforts very arduous. Consequently, the CS may have been having a bad day, as I am sure every one of us has had in the last few months. The government has been keen to ensure that it prepares, as much as possible, for the reopening of schools in January 2021. A major part of these preparations has been ensuring that it purchases desks and chairs, from local Jua Kali artisans, to be distributed in schools. The project, amid criticism, is one that has seen the CS traverse the country making impromptu school visits to inspect the project, its progress, and the quality of the desks delivered. 

The education sector has been hit majorly by COVID-19 and schools have had to close for almost a year. Even as the pandemic surges on, there are worries that some schools may not reopen at all and some students may not go back to school. The pandemic has strained the economy and a lack of resources and funds could mean that schools may lack the resources to reopen; and/or some parents may not have the funds to pay for school fees. Even so, the government assured parents that no school will be keen to press parents for school fees after reopening. Such assurances are welcome, but may not prevent the deteriorating financial plight of schools and parents if the government does not follow up with funding.  The government reopened schools for grade 4, class 8, and form 4 students in October, amid concerns of increasing COVID-19 infection cases. 

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