The Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers (Kuppet) has threatened a strike unless the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) ditches an insurance deal with a local firm. The union says the outpatient cover accorded to its members in a new deal is substandard, coming when their previous medical allowances have been withdrawn.
Although that sounds from the outset like a genuine grievance, it’s timing just before onset of national examinations is a tad spooky and must be dismissed as sinister. It reeks of impatience and sounds like the union is treating it as an emergency, which it obviously is not; at least, not enough to seek to disrupt national exams.
We reiterate, for the umpteenth time, that there must be room for negotiation and structured dialogue that does not disrupt either learning or the national examinations programme. Furthermore, the demand is an embodiment of the belligerence that so characterises every other demand by the union.
By the same token, TSC has rejected the demand by the giant Kenya National Union of Teachers to revoke the transfer of 85 headteachers under the delocalisation programme. We assert that as the employer of teachers, TSC must be given room to effect reforms that are the result of consultation and dialogue.
Knut needs to shed off that image of yesteryear, in which it fashioned itself as championing issues through agitation and activism. Again, we stress that its role as a teachers’ union is to look at issues of welfare and not challenge the employer on any and every issue. If there are genuine issues that require attention, and we are not saying there are not, such matters can be handled through the normal channels without having to resort to strike threats at every turn. Education programmes have been thoroughly disrupted by “frequent industrial activism”and there must be lessons learnt, by both the union and other stakeholders.
It would be foolhardy for anyone to think that every challenge can be addressed through one solution, regardless of time and circumstances. Emerging issues and challenges require that new and innovative solutions be sought to address problems in real time. However, this should not be at the expense of national examinations, which also have their own unique challenges. Any union demands that threaten exams programme must be rejected.