More teacher transfers amid threats of terror

Cynthia Chepkemoi, a teacher at Dololo Primary School in Mandera breaks into tears after narrating her challenges working and living in the county. She calls for Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to transfer teachers working in the regions prone to insecurity risks, including Mandera and Garrisa where she claims teachers fears for their lives .[David Njaaga,Standard]
Teachers are facing another round of transfers in the wake of public outcry over insecurity. The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has instructed its county offices to evaluate staffing in their regions and recommended deployments to ensure safety of teachers.

In a circular sent to County Directors of Education (CDEs), the commission wants all non-local teachers to be deployed to schools in urban areas.

TSC CEO Nancy Macharia says these teachers should have easy access to transport, accommodation and emergency facilities.

Long distances

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“This will enhance their integration into the host community and ease the burden of traveling long distances to their stations of work,” Mrs Macharia said, in circular dated March 1.

The TSC directive comes in the wake of recent terror attacks where two teachers were killed in Wajir County, prompting an outcry from unions and local leaders.

The non-local teachers were killed when suspected Al Shabaab terrorists attacked Qarsa primary school.

The wife to one of the teachers was also killed. Macharia said the late Seth Oluoch Odada and Kevin Shari were committed to the profession so much ‘that Seth had even moved his wife Caroline to Wajir.’ Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) asked all teachers in conflict-prone areas, sparking a terse reaction from North Eastern leaders. National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale condemned the proposal to recall teachers and asked TSC to ensure adequate numbers in the region’s schools.

The House Education Committee, through Chairperson Julius Melly, also weighed in last week, seeking to know what TSC is doing to ensure teachers are protected. In the comprehensive circular, Macharia released transfer and deployment guidelines that will ensure teachers are safe and protected.

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TSC now wants all teachers posted to their home or neighbouring counties to be distributed equitably to lessen the shortage. The national teacher shortage stands at 104,000 teachers.

She also directed TSC staffing directors to conduct regular teacher rationalisation and re-distribution to ensure all teachers are safe. This means that more teachers are set to be moved through another round of mass transfers in insecurity prone areas.

Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion said non-local teachers in Wajir, Garissa, Mandera, Lamu and Tana River counties have become soft targets for terrorists and proposes that teachers be allowed to teach in their home areas.

“We call on the government and TSC to make it a policy that local communities have teachers from indigenous groups,” Sossion said.

Kuppet Secretary General Akelo Misori asked the government to devise special ways of protecting teachers in high-risk areas. Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the ministry is aware of the attacks against teachers. Ms Amina said policies have been formulated to protect them from terrorism and other threats. Macharia now wants an urgent transfer of teachers faced with insecurity challenges.

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“Teachers who are faced with proven cases of insecurity and/or hostile working environment are transferred urgently to prevent loss of life,” she said in her directive.

The cases must be proven to avoid cases of teachers requesting for transfers even in stations where their lives are not under threat.

The county directors will however not work alone during the teachers’ transfers.

Macharia wants the staffing teams to work closely with security agencies to inform the deployments.

TSC also directed that staff members in dire need of medical attention must be assisted.

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“Teachers who require medical attention or psychological support are granted the requisite leave as per the code of regulations or transferred to schools where they can access the necessary attention,” Macharia said.

Last week, MPs demanded tangible action to protect non-local teachers in the North. Knut proposed that a special police unit be established to protect tutors working in high-risk areas.

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