Unions, TSC tussles must not disrupt examinations

KUPPET Secretary-General Akelo Misori (left) flanked by Omboko Milemba addresses journalists at their offices in Nairobi on February 23, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) has threatened to issue a strike threat over failed salary talks.

The union accuses Teachers Service Commission (TSC) of failing to reopen negotiations for the 2021-2025 collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Knut also has unfinished CBA business with TSC.

If Kuppet issues a strike notice, teacher could down tools days to the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations. That would be tragic.

There is no disputing. Teachers have a right to better pay. They are entitled to an increment considering that their hopes for the same were dashed by Covid-19 last year. They have a right to demand for better terms through the constitutionally-sanctioned channels. They have a right to go on strike if their push, through diplomatic means, hits the brick wall and if they issue a strike notice as required by the law.

But whether they have met these conditions or not, going on strike at this time would be a direct attack on the candidates. The strike would disrupt KCSE exams which are scheduled to start on March 11. Talk of a strike alone at this time is enough to cause anxiety among candidates.

Perhaps that is what the union wants. Perhaps it thinks that due to the urgency of the moment, TSC would have no option but to accede to its demands. They may be right, but we urge the unionists not play Russian roulette with our children's lives. The exams that they will sit next month were supposed to be done last year. It would be immoral for them delay them for even a day. The unions should fight their wars without imperiling the lives of learners.

But this doesn't mean TSC should ignore teachers' demands. It must treat them with the seriousness they deserve. It should open talks with them as soon as possible. Let level heads prevail for the sake of our children.