Impact of IMF policy on teacher recruitment
In 1997, the Government of Kenya agreed with the IMF to impose a limit of 235,000 on the number of teachers that could be employed. In 2003, a new government came to power and primary education user fees were abolished, over 1.5 million more children enrolled in school. The IMF refused to lift the cap on teacher numbers, Kenya was (and still is) unable to recruit
the additional 60,000 teachers it needs to support primary education across the country. Inevitably this has a severe impact on the quality of education, with classes averaging at 60 pupils per teacher.
Countries like Kenya have five choices in dealing with the problem of lack of school teachers.
1. They can do nothing and accept that the increase in enrolment means that classes now average 60 pupils per teacher.
2. They can limit enrolment, in direct contradiction to the EFA goals.
3. They can reduce teacher salaries, forcing teachers to take on supplementary jobs to earn a living wage.
4. They can change the standard teaching contract, and recruit contract teachers annually – paying them for just ten months work a year.
5. They can employ unqualified or under- qualified teachers, ‘para-professionals’, and pay them a fraction of the wage of a qualified teacher.
Any of one of these measures has a direct impact on the quality of education received, as well as damaging the teaching profession as a whole.
Despite this reality, which clearly impacts on a country’s ability to meet its MDG targets, national governments and finance ministries often feel powerless to challenge the macro-economic measures included in loan agreements, and fear that challenging the IMF will lead to a withdrawal of other funding sources. There is little discussion of such macro-economic conditions. They are rarely debated in the public arena, and in many countries are not even debated in parliament. In most cases, agreements are made between the IMF and the Ministry of Finance in closed meetings, with little space for national governments to negotiate. The Ministry of Education is not included in these discussions, and the conditionalities and resulting budgets are not linked to the national education plans and goals, despite their clear impact. A Ministry of Education official in Kenya comments:
“Education and health sectors are powerless when it comes to resource allocation and have to comply with the ceilings issued [by the Ministry of Finance]. The only time when the public is involved in the budgetary process is through MTEF public hearings of the various sectors and ministries…at no point are they consulted about the macro-economic framework. At the very least national Parliament should serve as a watchdog of the government, but they too are left out in the finer IMF – Government deliberations. The general feeling among the citizenry is that the Government decisions are subordinate to the IMF rules and directions and that the country is held captive by these decisions without much recourse”.