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Sossion must give strike-weary Kenyans a break

For the umpteenth time, secretary general of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) is breathing fire, promising yet another teachers’ strike.

Having apparently been wrong-footed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that was signed between teachers and  the government in 2016, it looks like the chaotic education sector, where teachers were going on strike on whim after making outrageous salary demands, is poised for industrial peace.

This period of calm seems to have become a threat to Knut leaders who are now looking at irrelevance.

Worse, Sossion’s position as Knut secretary general is now under increasing attack from teachers who want him to leave the union and concentrate on his job as a Nominated MP.

And so, out of the blue, Sossion has woken up aflame, threatening a strike. Of course, the strike has been cynically timed to coincide with the opening of schools for the third term when Standard Eight and Form Four candidates sit for exams. It’s called holding the country to ransom, and it’s unacceptable.

The biggest issue at the centre of the strike is the so-called delocalisation policy. TSC had decided to transfer headteachers to other schools countrywide in a rotation policy. Among the things informing the transfers is that some headteachers have stayed too long in one school to the detriment of the institutions, as well as other undesirable outcomes like creating fiefdoms.

It is impossible to understand exactly where Sossion finds the problem in transfer of head teachers. Firstly, transfers are normal for all civil servants. The government has been transferring civil servants for decades without any issue. Public servants have signed up to serve anywhere in the country. Teachers are not special.

Exemption requests are dealt with on a case by case basis.

All civil servants have to manage their families as best as possible when they are moved. Many public servants do not even live with their families because they were transferred. If you become a civil servant, family disruptions are part of the job hazard. So what is special about teachers?

Teachers must accept transfers like other civil servants. A teacher who feels they are not ready to serve Kenyans in other locations has the option of resigning.

The media must also stop manipulating this issue by playing up one side of this matter.  While some media have maintained screaming headlines on one side of the story, they have ignored that this strike has little support beyond Knut. The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) has rejected the strike, as have the associations of primary and secondary school head teachers.

Kuppet has stated that a strike cannot be the only tool of negotiation with their employer. Knut must embrace dialogue.

Sossion has become the single most disruptive force in Kenya’s education sector. His strikes have damaged the prospects of thousands of children in public schools, where learning is often disrupted. Note that learning in private schools continues during these periods.

All Sossion is doing cannot be for anything other than personal aggrandizement.  It is noteworthy that headteachers agreed with the transfer policy and those transferred have already moved. So, on whose behalf is this protest being made?

TSC cannot let a third party dictate its relations with its employees, nor can a union be the determinant of what constitutes development of the teaching profession.

Kenya has turned a new page, as epitomised by the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga. A new page where grandstanding, histrionics and disruption have ceased being the currency of operation, replaced by a new ethos where the mantra is Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First).

This new Kenya requires that leaders adopt a new leadership culture and style. Those who cannot adapt to the new Kenya must not be allowed to drag the country back.

So, if Sossion insists on remaining in the past, he must not be allowed to disrupt this march. It’s time he was shown the door. [email protected]

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