Irene Githinji @gitshee
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) is promising an even longer holiday into the New Year for learners, as it called national strike starting January 2 to protest alleged labour rights violation and mistreatment by government.
Yesterday, secretary general Wilson Sossion, who was prompted into action by the transfer of 3,000 school heads by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) came out guns blazing saying the union will protect the welfare of its members.
He was categorical that learning will be paralysed because teachers will not resume duty next term— the start of the academic calender— until all their outstanding grievances are satisfactorily addressed.
Abuse of Office
Sossion, who has had an adversarial relations with teachers’ employer, which he termed “rogue”, said its move to transfer more than 3,000 school heads without consulting other stakeholders amounted to abuse of office and complete defiance of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive on the same.
“Merry Christmas to you all but we cannot promise the year will start well. Parents should re-organise their budget because Christmas will be extended into the new year. We will not be available to deliver teaching. We will have withdrawn labour, legally,” Sossion said yesterday.
The union boss, who spoke from Knut headquarter accused TSC of not only being the “biggest agent of de-professionalising the teaching profession” but also an “agent of confusion that tramples on teachers’ rights”.
He said TSC had betrayed teachers’ trust, leaving them vulnerable because of “gross violation of the Code of Regulations”.
Dismissing the mass transfers, Sossion said the union had authoritatively established that the move was undertaken even without approval of the appointment board, which sits annually in December.
The union has since sought to understand reasons for the massive transfer of head teachers and whether or not those affected had requested the move. He demanded that the transfers be immediately revoked.
“This constitutes abuse of office aimed at bullying the teachers and defeating the directive of Head of State,” said Sossion.
He said teachers were contesting the withdrawal of their rights to promotions on account of merit, long service and new relevant higher qualifications.
They are also complaining of disruption of teaching services and families through “punitive irregular policy of delocalisation” as well as TSC’s persistence to irregularly subject teachers to Teacher Performance Appraisal and Development (TPAD) and contracting without proper negotiations.
Similarly, introduction of Teacher Professional Development (TDD) policies without stakeholder participation, which aims at transferring cost of training to teachers is yet another bone of contention.
“Knut issues a clear notice to TSC that teachers will resort to industrial action as stipulated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, backed by the Labour Relations Act with effect from January 2, 2019. Teachers will not resume duties until all outstanding matters are addressed to the satisfaction of all teachers,” he said.
Sossion said TSC had issued circulars and internal memos which contradicted the Code of Regulations for teachers, the CBA, TSC Act, Labour Relations Act and Public Participation Act among other statutes.
Additionally, Sossion said the union’s attempt to resolve some of the contentious issues by calling a meeting between parties had either fallen on deaf ears or was ignored altogether.
The ideal situation, he said, would have been the TSC listening and addressing teachers’ concerns to ensure industrial harmony and peace.
TSC Head of Communications Kihumba Kamotho said the commission will issue a comprehensive statement “in due course”.
“We will respond to issues raised in due course once they are officially communicated to the commission,” he said.
This is not the first time this year that Knut is opposing the transfers, which were part of TSC’s delocalisation programme.
On Tuesday, TSC said the transfers were primarily intended to achieve quality in teacher distribution for improved learning outcomes in public schools.
TSC said head teachers and principals, who attained mandatory retirement age in the last three months, had exited, hence some positions fell vacant.
As a result, some deputy head teachers qualified and with exemplary performance record had since been promoted to headship positions and transferred accordingly.