Ezekiel Machogu: A prolific manager is what the Ministry of Education needs


Ezekiel Machogu: A prolific manager is what the Ministry of Education needs

Ezekiel Machogu, candidate for Cabinet Secretary for Education. ARTWORK | JOSPEH BARASA | NMG

His potential predecessors in the Ministry of Education were prominent academics, the outgoing Professor George Magoha possessing perhaps the longest CV in former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cabinet.

Last Friday, the parliamentary audit committee sought to poke holes in his academic qualifications, citing his high school diploma obtained 43 years ago.

But Ezekiel Machogu, President William Ruto’s education cabinet secretary, maintains he is up to the task of tackling the country’s education challenges at the helm of a ministry whose other recent bosses were Professor Joseph Kaimenyi, Dr. Fred Matiang’i and Amina Mohammed.

If Parliament approves him for his appointment as Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mr Machogu will have his full baccalaureate.

Kenyans will be waiting to see how he handles the financial crisis in public universities, the shortage of teachers in schools and the implementation of the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC).

The career civil servant who was previously a district commissioner is adamant that he will not tolerate impunity against government directives and that the cartels in the Department of Education had better pack up and leave.

“I’m a manager, I’ve been tested and I’m a prolific administrator – that’s exactly what this department needs to be able to take it to the next level,” he told the audit committee on Friday.

Mr Machogu, whose reported net worth of 590 million shillings is made up of buildings and apartments in Nairobi and Mombasa as well as plots of land in Kisii, says he will ensure that taxpayers’ money at the ministry is accounted for.

He notes that he was not a millionaire but became one in early 2000 when he won a case and received 10 million shillings in compensation for being wrongfully accused of bidding. The amount accrued interest, forcing the government to pay him 14.87 million shillings.

The immediate former MP for Nyaribari Masaba said that if he is confirmed for his appointment, he will ensure, in the first month of his mandate, that the University Financing Board (UFB) is operational so that the problems of student capitation at public universities can be resolved.

Higher education institutions are currently struggling to meet obligations such as payroll taxes, pension benefits and insurance premiums for employees.

Financial crisis

The financial crisis in public universities is so severe that professors at Egerton University, for example, receive 57% of their salary. Moi University announced that it would declare staff layoffs to manage its payroll.

Kenya has experienced perennial teacher strikes which have been blamed on the implementation of collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) out of their cycles and delays in the release of funds by the government.

In 2016, the state began sponsoring students at private universities, a move that many opposed, arguing that it withholds funding from public universities, compounding their financial hardships.

“This is a legislative matter and I will be able to liaise with Parliament to review the matter,” said Mr Machogu, who graduated from the University of Nairobi (UoN) in 1979.

As part of the remedy for universities’ financial woes, he says institutions should seriously look for other ways to generate income, including engaging in commercial agriculture and tapping into research and innovation.

He says it’s time for universities to also rationalize staff so they don’t overstretch their budgets and that he plans to have engagements with vice-chancellors to find a lasting solution.

Discussions on the creation of an endowment fund will also take place. The endowment fund is a pool of assets invested by a college or university to support its teaching and research mission in perpetuity. Typically, it includes hundreds or thousands of individual donations.

After graduating, Mr. Machogu was employed as a civil servant, serving as District Officer in Nyeri, Nyandarua, Kiambu and Kirinyaga, before being promoted to District Commissioner, with posts in Nyandarua and Busia. He then served as Deputy Provincial Commissioner for the Coast Province.

The father-of-five also served in central government in various ministries including civil service, trade and commerce, before retiring in October 2016. Nyaribari Masaba’s one-term lawmaker challenged the race for governor Kisii on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket but lost to Simba Arati in the August polls.

He was among the Kisii politicians who dived against the strong wave of Azimio la Umoja to give President William Ruto crucial votes.

The Kenya Kwanza administration is keen to address concerns raised by stakeholders on the CBC and has commissioned a team of 42 experts to gather opinions and make recommendations within six months.

Mr Machogu will be walking a tightrope whether ensuring the implementation of the CBC gains momentum or overseeing its abolition at the risk of wasting the millions of shillings of taxpayers’ money that had been pumped into the overhaul from the program.

Low-income parents have recently denounced the “many hidden costs” of keeping their children in school under an education system that emphasizes practical skills rather than theory.

Parents have raised concerns that secondary schools are defying Department of Education guidelines on fees and imposing illegal levies spread over school terms.

“I will create systems and the structures are already in place to ensure that parents are not subjected to unnecessary levies. Rest assured that no illegal levies will be imposed under my direction,” Mr. Machogu said.

Open door policy

He promises to maintain an open door policy to strengthen engagements with various education stakeholders, including unions, for the good of the sector. Many believed that his predecessor, Professor Magoha, was unapproachable and hostile, especially towards members of the press.

The Kenya Kwanza administration has pledged to employ 116,000 teachers within two years to address the acute teacher shortage. The plan is to employ 30,000 teachers across the country from January.

“And as the economy picks up again, I will ask Parliament to approve funding to allow us to hire more teachers,” he said.

He intends to institutionalize internship programs to make them profitable and facilitate the integration of graduates into employment.

In his closing remarks to the Audit Committee, Mr. Machogu said he was up to the task.

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