Crisis talks begin today to address nine grievances by teachers amid a looming strike that could disrupt the reopening of schools next week.
The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has invited secondary school heads for meetings today and Friday to discuss mass transfers and performance appraisals, which are among the disputed issues.
The commission will also meet officials of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) tomorrow and Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) on Friday in efforts to avert a strike that could affect the opening of schools on September 1.
But hopes for a deal hang in the balance as the unions yesterday insisted all their nine demands must be addressed.
Knut has listed delocalisation, performance tools, promotions, reinstatement of schemes of service and proposed compulsory career development training for teachers as points of dispute.
“These are the irreducible minimums. If they tell us now that they have worked on these ones, we shall not even need meetings like the ones they have called. The strike will be put off immediately,” said Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion.
"We have five key issues for which we sought a meeting with TSC. It is our expectation that they will grant us a hearing and strongly consider for smooth industrial relations in the education sector," said Kuppet Secretary General Akelo Misori.
To try and bridge the gulf, The Standard yesterday established that TSC had reached out to representatives of secondary school heads, who are the most affected by the mass transfers.
Commission CEO Nancy Macharia will today meet select officials of the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) ahead of the Friday meeting.
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Officials of both Kessha and the Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) are scheduled to meet on Friday to discuss performance appraisals and mass transfers.
The talks were prompted by President Uhuru Kenyatta's recent directive to review the delocalisation policy by the end of the month to ensure that it did not split families.
Pressure has been mounting on TSC to forestall the strike that is likely to disrupt the national examinations calendar.
Only Kessha national chairman Kahi Indimuli, the treasurer and the national secretary will attend today’s consultative meeting scheduled to kick off at the TSChead office at 10am.
A senior manager at TSC said the meeting of the three Kessha officials and TSC would lay the groundwork for the Friday meeting that will involve more Kessha and Kepsha officials.
Secondary school heads were the most affected by the delocalisation policy that began on January 1, 2018.
The TSC said transfers that targeted heads who had stayed in the same station for nine years were meant to promote national integration.
More than 600 school principals, their deputies and a number of primary school heads were transferred to new stations in a process that also affected some national schools.
Overall, about 40 principals of national schools were moved to new destinations. Some 156 teachers were also moved in extra-county schools, with eight principals posted to national schools that were operating without substantive school heads.
In the counties, 134 vacant positions were filled and 19 heads of technical institutions moved.
Mr Sossion said Knut was pushing for the abolition of performance appraisals, resumption of promotions and reinstatement of schemes of service.
The commission has admitted to emerging concerns with some of the disputed professional policies and has agreed to review sections of the key points under dispute to avert the strike.
Ms Macharia last week directed relevant staff to convene an urgent meeting to discuss the contentious issues within two weeks.
“In order to strengthen the implementation of PC (Performance Contract) and TPAD (Teacher Performance Appraisal and Development), I have instructed the TSCDirector, Quality Assurance and Standards Reuben Nthamburi to urgently convene a meeting with primary and secondary schools leadership to address any emerging issues,” she said.
Sossion rejected calls by TSC to discuss labour issues with Kessha and Kepsha. He said delocalisation and performance appraisal tools were labour issues that could only be discussed by the unions.
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“No agreement will be reached even if TSC meets the associations every day. We shall insist that during our meetings, all matters are put on the table. For now, strike plans are still on,” he said.