Government makes key concessions in bid to forestall strike

President Uhuru Kenyatta during this year’s music festival winners state concert at Sagana State Lodge yesterday. [Kibata Kihu]
The government has made two major concessions to win over the 312,060 teachers and avert a looming strikeplanned for next month when schools open for third term.

Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has yielded to pressure from unions to review performance appraisal tools, weakening one of the major pillars the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) is fronting to push mass action.

Knut wants the commission to suspend the Performance Contract (PC) and Teacher Performance Appraisal and Development (TPAD) tools that have been running for the last two years.

The union argues that the tools were implanted without proper consultation and that teachers’ performances have dropped.

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“We demand that these tools be withdrawn immediately and unconditionally, failure to which we will not open schools on September 1,” said Wilson Sossion, Knut Secretary General.

Knut has also listed delocalisation, performance tools, promotions, reinstatement of schemes of service and proposed compulsory career development training for teachers as points of dispute. 

Points of dispute

President Uhuru Kenyatta this week made a major announcement calling for a review of the ongoing delocalisation of teachers, effectively removing the item from the dispute list. Uhuru instructed Ministry of Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed to spearhead the review of the transfer policy, a move that caught Knut off guard.

The President said it had come to his attention that many families have been affected by the mass transfers, winning teachers’ hearts with the intervention.

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And speaking just a day after the President’s directive, TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia has called for an immediate meeting to re-look the policy.

In her quest to break the strike, Mrs Macharia has also explained the critical points of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in a move seen to set head teachers against union leadership.

“In order to strengthen the implementation of PC and TPAD, I have instructed the TSC Director, Quality Assurance and Standards Reuben Nthamburi to urgently convene a meeting with primary and secondary schools leadership to address any emerging issues,” said Macharia.

She made the statement at Catholic University of Eastern Africa during a meeting of principals of Catholic sponsored schools. Macharia admitted to issues during the implementation of the appraisal tools.

“We have listened to you and are aware there are areas you want addressed in order to strengthen performance contracting and TPAD,” she said.

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Macharia directed that the meeting with heads takes place within two weeks.

“We are fully aware that as heads you are an important cog and a critical change agent in the matrix of quality teaching,” she said.

This means that before schools open, TSC will have made a major announcement on the appraisal tools in a bid to break the strike.

Insiders at Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) and Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) revealed that after the meeting, the schools leadership will reject the strike action.

“Once the areas of concern to us on appraisals and delocalisation are addressed, we will not have any reason to keep of schools when we open next month,” said a top association leader. Yesterday, Sossion maintained that the teachers’ strike will be on until TSC withdraws the appraisal tools and fresh negotiations started.

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He also said all the points of dispute must be discussed in the coming meeting called by the employer next week.

Defending the appraisal tools, Macharia said heads of schools have reported that PCs and TPAD enable them to focus more on prudent and judicious application of financial and human resources. Macharia also said the heads admitted that supervision has become easier, teacher absenteeism has drastically dropped and that teachers prepare schemes of work, lesson plans and keep vital learner progress records.

Reconciliatory tone

TSC also struck a reconciliatory tone with teachers, explaining various points of the CBA that she said are being addressed.

“I am aware that you have raised the issue of applicable allowances in line with your current pay grades. The commission is working out the modalities to pay the allowances in phases within the life of current CBA,” said Macharia.

Some heads complained that the allowances they received were paid at a lower rate after the new grading system.

Macharia said in the course of implementation of the CBA, some headteachers converted to higher grades, which qualified them for higher allowances. 

Under promotion, TSC said teachers stand to benefit more from the current provisions of the CBA. Unlike in the past when there was no provision for common cadre promotion for teachers joining at the level of P1, there is now provision for P1 teachers who join at T-Scale 5 to progress to T-Scale 6 after three years, the TSC boss said.

She also said secondary Teacher III, TSC-Scale 6 and Secondary Teacher II, TSC-Scale 7 are also common cadre grades. Sossion however maintains that the three schemes of service-for non-graduate, graduate and technical teachers and lecturers be reinstated.

Under the old arrangement, all non-graduate teachers in job group G would progress through automatic promotion to job group L.

Promotions were effected every three years and based on annual appraisals. The teachers could also move from job group L to N through interviews.

Graduate teachers in job group P would move through progression to job group R.

Teachers Service CommissionTSCKnutteachers strike