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Sossion is averse to educational reforms

By Alexander Chagema | March 9th 2017

Kenya’s 11th Parliament ranks high among discredited institutions in the country. From giving clean bills of health to public office holders during vetting, demanding their sacking after a few months’ stay in office citing integrity issues to the ignominious fisticuffs and the mediocrity that the tyranny of numbers in the august House has consigned the country; there is little going for the venerated House.

Individuals who have cottoned to this Parliament as a median to finding recourse to grievances; more often imagined than real, are tainted by association. And that brings me to Mr Wilson Sossion, the Secretary General of the Kenya National Union of Teachers.

Twice now, he has sought the assistance of Parliament in, first, reinstating the school ranking concept that had been yanked off, and lately, to have the 2016 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results recalled despite the truism that dispute resolution is primarily a function of the Judiciary.

That is for another day, though. Last week, the dark side of a school most Kenyans hold in awe and often associate with glamour emerged. Seemingly today, Alliance High School is just another jungle of indiscipline.

A school whose shiny veneer was first yanked off by the 2016 massive drop in grade ‘As’ the school has consistently posted over decades. The Matiang'i phenomenon whooshed in and exposed the elaborate con games schools used to engage in. The sordid exposure at Alliance roused the unionist in Sossion, who rushed in to defend Alliance Boys High Principal David Kariuki, after he threw in the towel.

Like an enraged Spanish bull going after the matador, Sossion waded in, denying the allegations and averring the principal ( not a member of Knut) was being unfairly targeted, only to be left with egg all over his face. He was the lone dissenter.

But that is typical Sossion for you; a man renowned for his confrontational deportment that has consistently scored off him over the years. Recently, the schools' board, from an informed point, admitted there were irregularities in the school; demoted 10 prefects, suspended six and recommended investigations against the deputy principal.

While Sossion should have been guided in his protestations by the fact that Mr Kariuki had not denied the allegations; that the report of misdeeds came from the Teachers Service Commission, that there were students with injuries to show for it and aggrieved parents seeking justice, he chose to ignore them.

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Sossion’s own words to the effect that “that was an indisciplined Form Four student being pursued by prefects” lent credence to the claims of prefects’ excesses. Does instilling discipline fall in the province of prefects, and why would several ‘prefects’ chase after a fellow student unless they operated as a vicious pack with the blessings of the school’s management?

Over time, it has become an inescapable fact that Sossion defiantly tries to stand in the way of reforms in the education sector.

Mr Sossion has projected himself as an enemy to the Kenyan parent, and here is why. At a time parents had baulked under runaway fee burdens that compelled many students to spend more time at home than in school and were celebrating the Government’s gesture of regulating school fees, Sossion vehemently opposed the move. The Government's ban on holiday tuition that added value only to the tuition fee recipients saw Sossion raise a stink.

Further, Sossion opposed reforms initiated by former Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi, called him names and rejoiced when Kaimenyi was moved. But having come face-to-face with the Matiang'i effect, his hackles have again been raised again. He protested the ban on prayer meetings and visits in third term when the reasons given were plausible.

He swore no teacher would sign performance contracts where TSC sought to exact value from them after absentee and drunken teachers had become a concern.

In 2014, Sossion rubbished a report on poor literacy levels conducted by the Uwezo Centre for Educational Innovations but today, that report has been vindicated by another report that, for instance, shows more than half the number of students in Teachers Colleges flunk their Knec exams. What did the national 2016 exams reveal? Sossion has futilely challenged the authority of a constitutional office like the Salaries and Remuneration Commission in determining teachers’ salaries.

While efficiency in the marking of national exams clearly eliminated incidents of sleight of hand, Sossion would have none of it, preferring the decadent status quo. I can still hear the din he raised when school ranking in national exams was abolished; completely amnesiac of the mischief, especially of private schools, which registered students in clusters to post better grades.

He has been very caustic to the rival teachers' union, Kuppet and his militancy and impotent threats to an insensate Government over better pay for teachers (which I wholly support), often leaves many wondering what drives the man.

Yet listening to him speak underlines the death of true and dedicated unionism as practised by former greats like Francis Ng’ang’a, Ambrose Adongo, John Katumanga and David Okuta. These were inspired individuals who talked and the nation paid attention.

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