Kenyan teachers are not only the best paid in East Africa, but also earn almost 12 times more than the country’s average pay, a comparative study byNation Newsplex and the Institute of Economic Affairs reveals.Even as teachers go on strike for the 12th time since their first industrial action in 1962, the analysis, which compares teachers’ salaries in Kenya with those of their peers in select African countries, also finds that the lowest-paid teacher in Kenya earns more than the highest-paid teacher in Uganda.
Uganda and South Africa were chosen as countries against which to compare Kenyan teachers’ wages because they have the most up-to-date data against which the comparison could be made.
While Tanzania was not included in the comparison because only average pay for the year 2011 was available, even its figures indicated that Kenyan teachers earn more than their Tanzanian counterparts.
The highest-paid Kenyan teacher earns almost 12 times more than the average pay in Kenya, while the highest-paid teacher in Uganda is paid double the average income of a Ugandan.
Even at the lowest income level, Kenyan teachers earn wages that are at least 44 per cent above the average wage, while their Ugandan peers earn 35 per cent more.
South Africa is different because the lowest-paid teacher there earns a mere two per cent above the average income, with the highest-earning teacher making eight times more than the average income.
The highest-paid teachers are in South Africa, with a maximum annual salary of Sh5,591,500, but the country’s per capita income is four times more than Kenya’s, whose highest-paid teachers earn a maximum annual salary of Sh1,672,200. Uganda has the lowest maximum annual salary of Sh146,900.
The average teacher pay in Tanzania was at Sh190,000 per year in 2011. For the lowest-paid, the teacher in South Africa has the highest minimum annual salary of Sh663,100, followed by the Kenyan teacher with a minimum annual salary of Sh192,600. The teacher in Uganda has the lowest annual minimum salary of Sh91,100.
A look at the pay scale in the three countries suggests that while experience in teaching leads to better pay in Kenya and South Africa, it does not in Uganda.
Kenya has the largest difference in income level among teachers. Chief principals, who are the highest-paid teachers, earn almost nine times as much as the entry-level primary school teachers, who are the lowest-paid teachers.
It is followed by South Africa, with the maximum teacher pay being eight times as much as the minimum. The pay gap between teachers in Uganda is lower because the maximum pay in Uganda is almost double the minimum wage.
The analysis by Nation Newspex and the IEA shows there are bigger differences in the income levels of teachers in South Africa and Kenya than is the case in Uganda.
The differences in the wages show that teacher pay in the three countries correlates with economy size. Last year South Africa’s per capita income was Sh644,790, while Kenya’s was Sh133,790 and Uganda’s Sh67,740.
SOUTH AFRICANS BETTER OFF
To understand the quantity of goods and services that could be purchased with the money teachers earn, the analysis looked at the relative values of incomes earned by accounting for differences in the purchasing power of a US dollar in every country. The US dollar is the de facto standard currency in international markets.
South African teachers earn incomes that would be equivalent to $109,662 in the United States given the differences in price levels in the two countries.
On the other hand, the maximum wage for Kenyan teachers would be equivalent to earning $36,122 while Ugandan teachers at the maximum level would earn at $3,666 per annum.
Figures for the United States show that the entry-level public school teacher’s wages ranges from $39,580 in South Dakota to a maximum of $75,279 in New York in the year 2013.
Income for US teachers at entry level give them the higher purchasing power of $39,580 but South African teachers have a huge lead in terms of purchasing power for the teachers with the highest incomes.
The figures also show that the purchasing power of the highest-paid teacher in Kenya is almost the same as the lowest paid teacher in the US.
Besides remuneration, the other major grievance by teachers is that they are overworked, mainly because they teach large classes.
A comparison between the trend of pupil-to-teacher ratios at primary and secondary school levels in Kenya since 2010 and the ratios in select countries around Africa and the rest of the world confirms that on this issue teachers have a point.
The teacher- pupil ratio in Kenyan primary schools is 50:1. GRAPHIC | LISA WAMUGUNDA AND MICHAEL MOSOTA | NATION NEWSPLEX
The worst shortage is in primary schools, where Kenya’s pupil-teacher ratio has been above the the sub-Saharan average of 40:1. At 50:1 it is more than double the Unesco benchmark of 24:1. Based on these benchmarks, it is clear that there is a shortage of teachers at the public primary school level in Kenya.
Data also shows that considering the number of pupils in secondary schools, Kenya has fewer teachers compared with its peers in sub-Saharan Africa. Throughout the five-year period, Kenya was above the sub-Saharan average of 25 pupils per teacher. Last year Kenya’s ratio of 29:1 was also way above the Unesco benchmark of 17:1.
A look at the growth rate of teacher and pupil numbers in primary schools reveals that the growth rate for teachers in 2014 went below that of pupils. This means the ratio may become progressively worse.
The situation is much different in secondary schools, where the growth rate for the teachers for the five years was two per cent faster than that of pupils. If this trend continues, the situation will get better and narrow down the pupil-teacher gap.
Kenya’s pupil-teacher ratio at the public primary school level was compared with that of Senegal, Cameroon, Djibouti, and Ghana. Of the select countries, Kenya has the highest ratio at 50:1 while Ghana has the lowest at 30:1.
Compared to select European countries — United Kingdom (18:1), France (18:1), Germany (12:1), and Belgium (11:1) — Kenya once again has the highest ratio.