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Teachers unions are the problem, not Jacob Kaimenyi

By Alexander Chagema | June 27th 2015

One of the advantages of being nondescript is that you get to hear things you are not supposed to. You appear so harmless, strangers around you are less inhibited in their talk.

Sometimes, I seem to withdraw deep into myself that I have noticed people seated next to me on public transport look at me askance, perhaps to reassure themselves I was still breathing or not holding onto something I could stick in them.

Recently, I eavesdropped on some fellows saying they had heard an official of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) brag he was capable of bringing down the government through a teachers’ strike. If truly a coterie of union officials famed more for braggadocio can do that, then they don’t know anything about the ominous side of political establishments; never far from the surface. A beleaguered government is more dangerous than a caged leopard whose nether regions have been singed by a hot iron rod; it will ferociously claw its way to safety. Mysteries are not mythical; they happen with too much regularity across the world to be taken for granted.

Taking abrupt changes in ones stride is not an easy thing to do. Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi, represents change; one so profound it has shifted ground under conceited and condescending teacher unions acting like they were an alternative government.

The unions want roles that have little to do with them; formulating education policy, deciding which way schools are run, how much fees should be charged, the number of staff who should be hired, which minister should be appointed to the Education docket and some other tomfoolery in between; like disbanding parents’ unions.

To contend that Prof Kaimenyi is an impediment to bettering educational standards when the opposite obtains is to miss the point by a mile. Unless union officials have one of their own lined up to succeed the CS, agitating for his removal is pedestrian.

The ministry could end up with an individual so incorrigible Kaimenyi would instantly be beatified. Enlisting the aid of Knut branch officials and some lacklustre MPs to raise a million signatures to get rid of Kaimenyi is a mark of cowardice and perhaps those going for this exercise have been compromised.

Recent changes in policies are best for the education sector. Parents who want a better, fulfilling future for their children, those who want them to grow into whole individuals away from the automatons conditioned to pass exams and savour the momentary glory of being ranked top should rally behind Kaimenyi.

The playing field must be made level for all. Today, it is skewed in favour of those with money. A just society, which we claim to be must make it possible for all to compete on equal terms. That is something that a few individuals are fighting, and the reasons for it can only be myopia, insensitivity to the plight of the poor and unbridled avarice.

Teachers unions are soliciting for another one million signatures to stop the Salaries and Remuneration Commission from including teachers in job evaluation. From a union that claims teachers are underpaid, it is unrealistic to fear teachers’ salaries will be slashed.

I have said it before; Knut is in a whirl, and teachers should rethink being led blindly by unions possibly suffering hallucinations. On the matter of health insurance, I support head teachers who met recently in Mombasa for their annual conference, they must be allowed to make their own informed choices; it is their money. They have been led like sheep long enough.

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