Two weeks ago, we were all glued to our television screens watching the first presidential debate. It was the first of its kind in our history.
Education was a key issue for the candidates – just as it was for their running mates during a “presidential running mate debate’ organised by conventional Christian church leaders, the Christian media and KBC in conjunction with Daystar University.
Both presidential candidates and their deputies seemed to have great plans for our education sector. They were aware that education is now a right for every Kenyan without discrimination, and that it is a national function which falls within their mandates.
How about aspirants for governor? What is their role in the provision of education? On several occasions, I have heard some Nairobi and Kakamega aspirants saying they will overhaul the entire education system if elected governors. They are using education as a campaign tool.
They have promised to convert public primary and secondary schools into successful academies. They have also promised to revise the curriculum and give teachers a pay rise, and to turn the University of Nairobi, and others, into world class universities like Harvard.
I do not dispute the fact that the Constitution makes them the chief executive officers of county governments. But do they understand their peripheral role in the provision of primary, secondary, tertiary and university education? Do they know the role of county governments in providing education?
Are they actually ignorant of the responsibilities ahead of them after the elections? I do not think they understand these issues and may be making promises they cannot fulfil, simply to win votes.
Let me remind them that the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution assigns function to both national and county governments. The provision of primary, secondary, tertiary and higher education is the mandate of the national government.
The national government is responsible for educational policies, standards, curriculum, examinations and granting university charters.
This has left no room for county government to play a key role in the education sector except in relation to pre-primary education, village polytechnics, home-craft centres and childcare facilities. They should also read article 237 of the Constitution. It establishes a Teachers Service Commission and clearly stipulates its function.
This independent commission is responsible for recruiting and employing teachers. It will also assign teachers employed for service in public schools. Where will governors come in here?
As gubernatorial aspirants criss-cross their counties to harvest votes, it is not correct to pledge to overhaul the entire education system when they lack the mandate to do so. It is important that they promise the public what they can legally and practically deliver.
I urge Kenyans to dust off their free copy of the Constitution and read the Fourth Schedule on the functions of county governments before casting their ballots in support of particular candidates. Be wary of sweeping pledges that aspirants are making.
Mr Wekesa is a lecturer, Riara Law School, Riara University, Nairobi: (firstname.lastname@example.org)