THE Kenyan government is set to axe 70,000 teaching jobs to save 30 per cent of the salary bill.
First to go will be an estimated 20,000 "ghost teachers" -- non-existent staff whose salaries are currently divided up among corrupt education officers.
The crisis arose last year when teachers' wage bill rose from 25 billion Kenyan shillings to 35 billion shillings (pound;206m to pound;289m) after unions won a wage dispute. This left limited funds for textbooks and building repairs.
The teachers' service commission has begun the exercise with a national census of teachers to uncover those who have continued to draw salaries after quitting the profession.
The exercise is also expected to uncover the names of dead or non-existent teachers whose salaries are being collected illegally as well as to net hundreds of unqualified teachers who may have been irregularly employed or promoted.
The government has yet to announce just how many ghost teachers it has busted, but insiders at the teachers' service commission who sought anonymity said the exercise discovered the 20,000 "ghost teachers" and another 10,000 irregularly employed out of 260,000 teachers.
Richard Leakey, head of the Kenyan civil service, has now directed Benjamin Sogomo, secretary to the teachers' service commission, to rationalise the primary and secondary teachers' register by removing ghost teachers from the payroll. Irregularly employed teachers are expected to be sacked before the rest of the retrenchment begins.
Next to go will be the 20,000 teachers who have reached 50. The remainder will be drawn from untrained teachers, junior primary teachers and others willing to take early retirement.
The redundancies follow demands from international aid donors, including the World Bank, that Kenya cut staff jobs.
Britain and the World Bank have offered to meet the cost of lay-offs amounting to pound;114m. Retrenched teachers will be given golden-handshake packages.