State should address teachers' concerns to stop high turnover

Teachers protesting. [File, Standard]

About 44 teachers retire, die or resign each day, according to a Teachers Service Commission (TSC) survey that was conducted between March and July 2022. This is an extremely high number to leave the profession.

Data from the commission indicate that it lost 8,018 teachers between June 2022 and January 2023, a period of about six months. This means it lost an average of about 1,336 teachers each month. Needless to say, the exit of teachers threatens learning in schools.

The TSC estimated teacher shortage to be at 110,633 for primary and secondary schools by September 2023 in spite of the fact that the commission has made a number of interventions to employ teachers both as interns and on permanent and pensionable terms. In 2023 alone, the government employed over 56,000 teachers to address teachers, 40,000 of them on contractual terms and slightly above 16,000 on permanent and pensionable terms.

One would want to know why teachers resign at a time when securing employment is a difficult task. Whereas exiting the profession through natural attrition, age and death may not be within our control, resignation, is something that TSC can address. 

The main reason for the resignation of teachers is the pursuit of greener pastures due to low pay, poor terms and conditions of service, rigid upward professional mobility, insecurity such as in the Northeastern region where Al Shaabab remains a threat, heavy workload, poor employer policies such as delocalisation, hostility from some communities, heavy taxation and lack of motivation by the employer.

With the high cost of living, teachers feel that their pay is too low and sometimes they are unable to provide basic commodities like food, medication, clothing and education for their dependents. The last time teachers had a salary increment negotiated by their unions was in 2017. For six years, there has been no salary increment.

Teachers who are leaving the country cite rigid upward professional mobility, otherwise called the promotion of teachers, as less motivating compared to other employers in the public service. The change of promotion mode from a Scheme of Service to Career Professional Guidelines disadvantaged many teachers who only knew the path of promotion to furthering their education besides excelling in their teaching activities.

By April 2014, over 80,000 teachers who had gone back to school and qualified with higher levels of achievement had nowhere to go apart from subjecting themselves to the CPG. Petition number 42 of 2023 to the National Assembly is assisting in pursuing justice for these teachers away from the effort we are putting in as their union to see to it that they are rightfully placed according to their qualifications.

Most teachers in this category feel dejected, demotivated and demoralised. They therefore feel seeking alternative employment could serve them better.

Other causes such as insecurity, and poor policies that impact negatively on the world of work and workers such as delocalisation and deployment of teachers have made them feel that the employer doesn’t care about what employees go through. Teachers who picketed outside TSC’s office in September citing insecurity in their places of work were sacked instead of their concern being addressed. Teachers who complained about being separated with their spouses by the delocalisation exercise were interdicted by the employer instead of being offered solutions.

It is sad listening to some of the reasons for teachers exiting the profession. The employer should do something to redeem the confidence of these teachers. The employer should create conducive engagement with the teachers’ representatives through a collective bargaining agreement and thereafter honour what is agreed upon. This would guarantee fairness.

The commission should also step out outreach programmes to understand the environments that teachers work in and ensure that issues of insecurity are addressed based on first-hand experience. Deployment and transfer of teachers to far-flung areas that lead to the separation of families should be avoided. 

Knut is concerned about the number of teachers exiting the profession and would like the commission to take action before matters get out of hand.