, PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCES OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA DURING THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE KENYA PRIMARY SCHOOLS HEAD TEACHERS’ ANNUAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE, SHEIKH ZAYYED CHILDREN’S CENTRE, MOMBASA, 3RD SEPTEMBER, 2013 Distinguished Head Teachers, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be at your Association's 9th Annual Delegates' Conference here in Mombasa, whose rich history you all very well know. This event gives you, as school managers, an opportunity to interact and bring your understanding of current issues in national education up to speed. I approve your stated intention of promoting excellence in the management of schools. The conversations that will take place here are important, not just to the Delegates, but to the entire nation. Every Kenyan is a core stakeholder in the education sector, and your work directly impacts everyone in our country. It is important that you examine and debate critical aspects of your mandate in a purposeful and committed manner. I appreciate your important role in our national life, and I am here today to underscore that value. Ladies and Gentlemen, We have traversed the Coast region over the past week and the message we grasp from our people is simple: this is a season of hope for our country. It is a season in which we seek to entrench peoples and human rights, guarantee good governance and the rule of law, and very importantly, return a sense of discipline to our way of life. It is a season in which we must be willing to confront the toughest questions we face, and embrace a political culture of debate and openness. It is a season in which your leadership in schools should and must be driven by a sense of purpose of building a better Kenya. You must seek to take advantage of the globally improved environment, including with technology, to mould the young Kenyans you have taken the duty and honour to nurture. As a country, our development and prosperity depends on that. The African writer Ben Okri may have had this season in mind when he wrote his book, “The Mental Flight”. “Domesticating the infinite, Contemplating the quantum questions Time, death, new beginnings Regeneration, cycles, the unknowns, … So it is with this moment A gigantic death, and an enormous birth This mighty moment In Timelessness.


We talk about a season of hope because we in the Jubilee government dare to see to it that there is a “Gigantic death” to the bad practises of the past. We talk about an “enormous birth” because we dare to return integrity, accountability and discipline as a way of life. We in Jubilee are prepared to debate the quantum questions of our time, in education, culture, peoples’ rights, technology and other areas. Precisely because of our preparedness to tackle the quantum questions of our time, my administration may have started off on a wrong footing with you, as teachers. But it is time to put that behind us now, and forge a new partnership that will deliver a good education to our children and guarantee the future prosperity of our country. Ladies and Gentlemen, My administration is committed to discharging the pledges it made to Kenyans and which form our mandate to govern. One of these pledges is to take urgent steps to eliminate the worrisome regional imbalances in school enrolment where counties like Turkana and Garissa managed less than 35% when the national average is 93%. Other challenges include the quality of education we give our children: overcrowded classrooms, underequipped schools and a severely underfunded education sector. The unsatisfactory transition rates from primary to secondary school nationally, and the way it compounds poor enrolment in vulnerable areas, is equally a concern. My Government sees in its mandate the imperative to expand access to education while at the same time raising its standards. This involves removing financial and non-financial barriers. By 2018, we will be able to dedicate 32% of government spending through steady annual budgetary increments. We expect to increase the number of schools in ASALs and significantly improve the teacher-pupil ratio nationally. We want all our children to have educational opportunity without regard to region, gender or disability. That is why I am gratified to note the theme of your Conference, and its emphasis on Child Friendly Systems. I encourage you to diligently interrogate the instruments governing the education system in Kenya. Article 53 of the Constitution makes education a basic right. The Constitution never prescribes in vain. To operationalise the right to education, we have passed the Basic Education Act, 2013 as the principal instrument of actualising the Education Policy contained in Sessional Paper Number 14 of 2012. This governance framework recognises the importance of making education relevant and attractive to its stakeholders. Their participation in designing curricula and other educational programmes is therefore no longer optional. We are on the journey to national resurgence and prosperity. This journey will be a futile expedition if Kenya does not thoroughly prepare a professional, well-adjusted human capital of the highest calibre who will confidently compete with the world's best and realise our economic potential. If


you want to know that a government is serious about its transformative ambitions, see what it is doing in the classroom. My administration has embarked on the initiative to supply children commencing primary school with laptops. Last month, we launched the school curriculum for the implementation of this programme. Preparation for the rigorous, costeffective and accountable procurement of the laptops is underway. To get the programme underway, all school managers will be required to update their capacity to implement a technology-based curriculum. The laptops will usher in an era of interactive, student-centred teaching that will free teachers to mentor pupils and perform their core educational roles. It will also bring electric power connection to many primary schools in the country for the first time. As far as Child Friendly initiatives go, nothing promises greater gains in our time. The laptops usher in “new beginnings” and an “enormous birth”. Please embrace them. To complement this programme, school managers must exceed minimum benchmarks in service delivery. Statistics showing that less that 50% of teachers have any actual contact with their pupils, or that most children remain both illiterate and innumerate at the end of primary school, spell a problem for the country. Somebody is not doing their work. Government is not getting value for money. This situation cannot and will not persist further, because it is a reprehensible disservice to our children. I will not permit it. I direct the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Science and Technology to report to me on what those charged with Quality Assurance and Standards at his ministry are doing to ensure that pupils are learning, and that quality teaching is taking place. In the interest of accountability, an explanation for the rise in these disturbing statistics is overdue. It is my Government's manifest aim to raise a generation of Kenyans who will be equipped - at the earliest possible point in their lives - with globally competitive competencies. This will give Kenya the edge it needs in innovation, service and industry to lead our region and continent. The transformation has begun, and there is no looking back. It is taking place in the classroom; we are serious. Aside from imparting knowledge and skill, our education system must concern itself with the quality and integrity of the citizen it is nurturing. Corruption, tribalism and lack of civic-mindedness have wrought unimaginable damage to the national fabric. It is possible that the accent of our educational system suggests that the moral and ethical order of our society is secondary to the attainment of individual success and personal gratification. We need a system that inculcates intellectual probity and national cohesion. We require a system that honours competitiveness without demoting consideration for others. The ethos of Selflessness and Service must find its way back into the classroom, somehow, and into the minds and hearts of our children. Ladies and Gentlemen, Let us envision and implement an integrated skills development framework that identifies the innate gifts of a student as early as possible. This will enable the

schools to nurture talent and align it to vocational and professional interests. We must safeguard equality by ensuring that vulnerable children –such as girls, children from pastoral communities and disabled pupils - have access to childfriendly schools. We cannot permit cultural practices that undermine equal access to persist. As a matter of fact, FGM, early marriage and failure to educate girls constitute serious criminal infringements and child abuse. They have to stop. My Government sees in you a capable partner in transforming Kenya. We want you to give your best under minimum supervision; that is the timeless indicator of professional competence. We must redefine the engagement of school managers and teachers with Government so as to maintain the teacher's authority, which is the engine of effectiveness. We must maintain sober and coherent dialogue, and reduce cacophonous confrontation. Government has a stake in teacher welfare. Our collaboration must be focused, patient and founded on mutual understanding and the national interest. Education is the most important gift a Government can give its citizens. It is the one thing guaranteed to stand the test of time and improve individual and communal prospects. I invite all of you to collaborate with Government to make this gift bigger and better. This Conference is an important opportunity to advance this collaboration. I wish you fruitful deliberations and a successful Conference. Ladies and Gentlemen, I now declare the 9th Annual Delegates' Conference of the Kenya Primary Schools Headteachers' Association opened. Thank you and God bless you.