Understanding teacher attendance in Kenya: a case study of Embu County

Jenny Price, Maria Galvis, Anila Channa

15 May 2020

In 2018, NFER commissioned an illustrative case study research to explore the challenge of teacher attendance in Embu County in Kenya, and the perceived efficacy of recent reforms to curb absenteeism. One of the key reforms implemented in Kenya to address teacher performance and attendance is the Teacher Performance Appraisal Development (TPAD) system, which enables the Kenyan Teacher Service Commission (TSC) to monitor teacher attendance, performance, and professional development.

Qualitative and quantitative data was collected with teachers, headteachers, parents, and community members, from 20 randomly selected government primary schools in Embu County, Kenya. The findings indicated that absenteeism rates were largely consistent with Kenya-wide estimates, but stakeholders appeared to downplay the absenteeism challenge. Perceptions of the effectiveness of recent reforms were generally positive, but these reforms may not necessarily address intrinsic motivations.

We identified four policy implications:

  • Focus on interventions that address not only school but also class absenteeism by teachers.

Class attendance of teachers appears to be a larger challenge than school attendance, yet many global reforms focus on reducing the latter as opposed to the former.

  • Consider ways of shifting the focus of TPAD’s practical usage from simply monitoring teachers to better motivating them.

The TPAD system aims to both monitor attendance and motivate teachers with tools to improve their practice. Further shifting TPAD’s practical focus from policing performance to supporting personal development may help to sustain early success in addressing attendance challenges.

  • Consider ways to support school teachers and headteachers to effectively use TPAD.

While teachers are clearly aware of, and using the TPAD system, they perceive challenges related to the training provided, and the nature of TPAD usage. It may be important to consider ways to further support teachers and headteachers to use TPAD by providing refresher training, mentors or coaches, or through contests and prizes encouraging effective usage.

  • Inform communities about the issue of teacher absenteeism, and seek creative ways to engage them in solutions.

We found that community members outside of the school had limited knowledge about the extent of the teacher attendance challenge, particularly at the class level. This may imply that they do not exercise their rights to hold schools to account for teacher absenteeism, particularly at the class level.

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