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Uncertainty as strike call threatens schools reopening

Alvin Mwangi and Reuben Mwambingu @PeopleDailyKe

The opening of schools tomorrow for the first term has been masked by uncertainty triggered by looming countrywide teachers’ strike and confusion over the roll out of the competence-based curriculum.

And caught up in the standoff between the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) are more than 10 million learners, most in early learning and primary schools.

The two main but often adversarial stakeholders in the critical education sector, the employer and union, are both playing hardball over the latest transfers of head teachers, promotions, the new curriculum implementation and long-standing issues of performance contracting that now threaten to paralyse the school calendar.

Yesterday, TSC appeared to douse any hope of any likely amicable end to the simmering dispute by directing that the 3,094 head teachers transferred recently should have taken over the new stations by January 3.

In a statement, through its head of communication Kihumba Kamotho, TSC said: “The Commission would like to advise that all the heads of institutions who were either deployed or transferred have handed over and/or taken over as appropriate. They have also signed the necessary documentation including resource accountability instruments. In this regard they will be available in their new stations to receive learners on January 3 for the commencement of first term learning programme”.

The teachers’ employer issued the statement after its top brass had skipped a planned conciliation talks between it and Knut.

The TSC said in some cases, it had transferred teachers in a bid to strengthen management of some learning institutions following recommendations from standards and assessment reports.

“In other schools, principals and head teachers had served in the same institution for a long period and needed to be exposed to different working environment and also tap into their vast experience. This is in line with policy,” the statement stated.

However, Knut through its secretary general Wilson Sossion maintained that the directive by TSC was illegal, stating that no head teacher will be transferring at all.

Sossion vowed that the impending strike would only be called off after a solution has been found to four key issues of promotion, contentious transfer and performance contracting policy. 

In December, Knut issued a strike notice after 3,094 teachers were transferred across the country, which the union said were not approved by the appointing board. But TSC insisted that the transfers were necessary after the retirement of teachers in the “last few months”.

But Sossion is adamant that it will not allow the delocalisation policy to continue because teaching is a community service and teachers should be allowed to teach within their localities.

The union official claimed several families had been disrupted while some teachers had succumbed to the stress of delocalisation policy. “We are not opposed to transfers but we are not going to give away our families,” said Sossion.

However, Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (Kuppet), which represents secondary school teachers, has dismissed the strike call, arguing that there were pertinent issues that needed to be addressed.

In a statement on Monday, Laikipia Kuppet executive secretary Ndungu Wangenye said their members will not participate in the strike, adding that teachers should ignore Knut, accusing its officials of taking them for a ride.

He backed the advice by the union’s national leadership led by secretary general Akelo Misori and chairman Amboka Milemba for members to ignore strike call saying teachers should now be engaging in other issues such as how they are going to deliver the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the stagnation of teachers in the same job group.

Wangenye asked Knut to give room for dialogue with the TSC.

In response to the strike notice by Knut, TSC now plans to hire teachers if the union persists on its demands.

The strike compounds the confusion on the roll out of the new curriculum, which persists despite President Uhuru Kenyatta assuring Kenyans the curriculum, will be rolled out as scheduled this month. However, the ministry is yet to give to clear guidelines on then way forward.

When she appeared before Senate Education committee, Education CS Amina Mohammed said the ministry had suspended the roll-out till 2020 saying it had loopholes.

Buy days later, she beat hasty retreat saying the ministry would go on with roll out up to grade three this year as opposed to the delay to 2020.

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