TSC now threatens to sack intern teachers

Junior Secondary School teachers demonstrated along the Eldoret streets in Uasin Gishu County over the delayed employment by the government. May 6, 2024. [Peter Ochieng, Standard].

The teachers' employer has now threatened to sack intern teachers who have failed to report to work since schools reopened for the second term.

The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) said it will on Friday get attendance reports from all schools to inform disciplinary action against those who absconded duty.

Appearing before the National Assembly Education Committee, TSC Legal Affairs director Cavin Anyuor said the disciplinary action will be based on attendance records collected by school heads. He said the records will be received at the TSC head office on Friday, May 17.

The development comes days after intern teachers vowed to stay put even as their employer directed them to go back to class. Emboldened by support from the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), the teachers announced elaborate plans to intensify their demonstration starting next week.

Daniel Murithi, secretary-general of the Kenya Junior Secondary Teachers Association, said communication from TSC urging them to resume work will not sway their resolve.

“The fact that TSC has responded requesting you to go back to school, means reports have reached them that the majority are not going back to school. The fact that they are requesting you to go back tells you that they can’t replace 46,000 teachers even if they want,” Murithi said on Wednesday.

The back and forth between TSC and JSS teachers follows a labour court ruling in April that deemed the internship programme as illegal because of unequal pay for equal work. However, a stay order allowed the TSC to continue employing interns until August 1.

But TSC now says it will only negotiate with the interns should they lose the appeal to overturn the illegality ruling.

Further complicating the situation is a budget shortfall, the commission claims it lacks Sh30 billion needed to permanently employ all intern teachers.

It proposes a phased approach, absorbing only 26,000 interns in January 2025 and will need Sh8.3 billion for the absorption of the first cohort alone.

This comes after a faction of the nearly 60,000 intern teachers on Monday boycotted teaching when schools reopened for second term demanding enhanced pay and conversion of their intern contracts to permanent and pensionable.

Anyuor said the commission will take appropriate action in line with stay orders on a ruling that found the employment of the intern teachers illegal.

“The commission is aware that there are some interns who are picketing. Schools reopened on May 13 and the commission has since directed that data be collected by Friday this week, we will know who is in class and who is not and then the provision of the teacher's code of conduct will be applied in that regard,” Anyuor said.

He spoke on Wednesday while appearing before the National Assembly Committee on Education to weigh in on the budget proposal for the next (2024/2025) financial year.

Kitutu Masaba MP Clive Gisairo challenged the commission to explain the fate of the internship programme and that of JSS should the courts uphold the ruling outlawing the programme.

In a compromise, TSC indicates it is ready to negotiate with the interns should they lose a court case that challenges the legality of the internship programme.

The Labour Relations Court in April ruled that the teacher internship programme was illegal but halted any action until August 1. This means TSC is free to continue engaging the interns until August 1.

“If we lose the stay (on the court order outlawing hiring of intern teachers) we will negotiate with these teachers to come to an understanding so that their conversion to permanent and pensionable can start in January 2025,” Anyuor said.

This is even as it emerged that the TSC requires Sh30 billion to employ all the interns. However, TSC says it will first employ 26,000 interns in January who have successfully served for two years in the post. For this, Anyuor said they will need Sh8.3 billion.

However, some legislators on Wednesday supported the intern teachers seeking they be absorbed on an enhanced contract in July.