Knut officials fight to stay in office as poll plan unfolds

From left: Knut National Treasurer John Matiang'i, acting Secretary General Hesbon Otieno and National Chairman Wycliffe Omucheyi. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]
A secret plot to force fresh elections in the giant teachers’ union rocked by leadership wrangles can be revealed.

Following the contested ouster of Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Wilson Sossion, it has emerged that two more Knut national officials face removal from office, which would trigger polls to pick new office bearers. 

Knut National Chairman Wycliffe Omucheyi and First Vice Chairman Collins Oyuu are fighting to remain in office in the wake of revelations that the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) does not recognise them as in-service teachers.

Official correspondence shows that TSC considers them to be retired teachers.

SEE ALSO :Warring Knut factions’ ceasefire

The development is expected to raise tensions in the union that has been rocked by a power struggle and revelations it is losing members to rival Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet).

Retirement age

Mr Omucheyi chaired the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting that ousted Sossion and appointed Hesbon Otieno in an acting capacity.

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Sossion, however, has obtained a court order stopping his suspension.

“Someone is keen to push out more national officials and call an election,” said a Knut insider.

SEE ALSO :You will never teach again in Kenya, TSC tells Sossion

Knut’s constitution says that if more than three national officials exit the union through death, resignation, dismissal or any other way, a special conference shall be called to elect new officials to fill the vacancies. 

There has been disquiet for months over the two officials’ eligibility to hold office, which has now burst into the limelight.

Documents seen by The Standard show that Omucheyi should have retired in March last year after he attained the retirement age of 60.

“The records held in this office indicate that you were born on March 5, 1958 and you therefore attained 60 years – the age of compulsory retirement – on March 5, 2018,” reads a letter dated June 17, this year.

It continues: “This is therefore to convey the decision to retire you belatedly with effect from March 5, 2018.”

SEE ALSO :TSC threat to cut links with teachers' union

The letter is signed by Mr S. M Njuguna on behalf of TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia.

The letter adds that Omucheyi has completed the period for qualifying service for payment of pension.

The Knut constitution pegs the retirement age of all officials at 60. It also emerged that most top Knut officials are approaching retirement age, with reports of plans to amend the constitution to raise the age to 65.

The union responded to the letter on June 24 and informed TSC that they had made similar inquiries and the commission had indicated Omucheyi’s date of birth as 1961.

Knut also made reference to a letter by Omucheyi to Ms Macharia dated January 16, 2016, in which he communicated his decision to retire voluntarily on age grounds, stating his date of birth as July 11, 1961.

SEE ALSO :TSC vs Knut fight: Tale of child trying to choke a parent

“It is in this regard that we ask you to urgently clarify to us the exact retirement date of Omucheyi as per the records held at the TSC,” Knut wrote in the letter signed by Sossion. 

Yesterday, Omucheyi termed the TSC letter as erroneous.

“I wrote to TSC over inconsistencies of the details in the letter. And they wrote back to me correcting the matter,” he said.

But Omucheyi had not shared a copy of the letter with the new age details by the time of going to press.

“I have had only one national identification (ID) card which bears my age. I also have a birth certificate which has details of my correct age,” he added.

Teaching licence

A copy of the national ID seen by The Standard showed that Omucheyi was born in 1961, and not 1958 as claimed by TSC. 

But commission documents in our possession reveal that Omucheyi had indicated he was born in 1958.

Details appearing in the TSC form for ‘Application for Registration of Teachers’ show that Omucheyi applied for his teaching licence on March 26, 1979 when he was 21 years old.

In the documents, the names of two referees are clearly printed. 

In Mr Oyuu’s case, he wrote to TSC in November 2016 requesting early retirement to seek political office. In 2017, after having failed to clinch the seat, Oyuu asked TSC to reinstate him in the TSC roll to enable him ‘update other contributions’.

But the commission declined his request through a letter dated December 6, 2017.

“Kindly note that you did not resign but you applied for voluntary retirement with effect from November 23, 2016 and a letter was issued to that effect,” reads the letter signed by Anne Katunge on behalf of TSC.

Oyuu yesterday dismissed the claims as baseless, arguing that TSC’s rejection does not make him irrelevant to Knut.

The union vice chair said he is protected by Knut’s constitution which states that one ceases to be a member if he retires or resigns from the teaching service except for full-time elected union officers.

But what is curious is that despite TSC’s strongly-worded letter to Omucheyi, the official has continued to attend meetings at the commission.

Last week, Omucheyi led rebel Knut officials in a meeting at TSC that was chaired by Ibrahim Mumin, the commission director in charge of administrative services.

The officials also met with other commissioners as they pleaded with the employer to pardon teachers sacked for interrupting the new curriculum training.

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KnutWilson SossionLeadership wranglesWycliffe OmucheyiTSCKuppet