JSS crisis: Blow to TSC as intern teacher posts declared illegal

Teachers Service Commission CEO Nancy Macharia. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The nearly 60,000 teachers hired by the Teachers Service Commission as interns may force their employer to pay them full salary for the period served. 

This emerged yesterday after the Employment and Labour Relations Court (ELRC) found the commission violated their right to fair labour practice by giving them internship positions while they were qualified and possess teaching licences.

But the decision also throws into limbo the fate of Junior Secondary Schools just two weeks before schools reopen for the second term. The teachers have been the backbone of the implementation of the Competency-Based Curriculum at the Junior Secondary School.

In his ruling, Justice Byrum Ongaya ruled that the commission cannot hire or engage or hire student-teachers or interns as its mandate is limited to employing only those qualified and registered.

“The respondents have not exhibited statutory regulatory or policy arrangements that would entitle the first respondent (TSC) to employ interns. Ideally, the first respondent should employ registered teachers upon terms that are not discriminatory and to meet the optimal staffing needs in public schools,” Justice Ongaya said.

The programme was introduced to plug teacher shortage that plagued schools and doubled as a crash programme to provide teachers for Junior Secondary Schools.

However, the ruling now adds to the list of troubles that have engulfed the internship programme including major opposition to the extension of the programme.

The internship programme was initially set to run for one year before the interns are absorbed on a permanent and pensionable basis.

However, in December, President William Ruto announced that the teachers will be required to serve an extension of another year before they can be considered for permanent and pensionable employment.

In the case, the court heard that TSC gave contracts to the interns to teach two subjects. However, in classes, they taught everything including sciences and mathematics.

At the same time, those hired were aggrieved that some colleagues were hired on permanent and pensionable terms while they were retained under the terms of teachers in colleges and universities who are placed in schools to learn how to teach.

There were claims that despite the tutors getting an ‘intern stipend’ TSC deducted all taxes and contributions required by the government, including the controversial housing levy.

The case was filed by the Forum for Good Governance and Human Rights on behalf of the interns. It indicated that those hired were not supervised but left to grapple with all subjects on their own.

“The second respondent is handling the lives and rights of the children casually as test guinea pigs to confirm whether the CBC, can work. I state this is indeed a worrying state,” the court heard.

One of the affected teachers filed an affidavit in support of the case. Oroso Oganga narrated that he was sent to Eking Narok Primary School in Kajiado County.

His degree indicated that he graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Education (Arts). According to him, his contract with TSC was clear that he was to teach History or Christian religious education.

However, he stated that when he reported to the school on February 7, 2023, he ended up teaching Computer Science, Integrated Science, Social Studies, CRE, Health Education and Life Skills.

He said he was also responsible for both administration and management of the class.

Oroso said despite all the work, he went home with a Sh20,000 stipend.

On Wednesday, Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) hailed the court ruling as a significant victory for intern teachers. The ruling paves the way for the interns to be potentially absorbed into permanent positions.

KNUT Secretary-General Collins Oyuu expressed reservations about the internship programme itself, calling it unfair to treat fully qualified teachers as trainees.

“The issue of interns has been a thorn in the flesh much as it was a stop-gap measure, which we actually support, it is prudent that these teachers become permanent and pensionable especially those who have proceeded for a whole year on internship,” Mr Oyuu said.

He has asked TSC to lobby Parliament to allocate funding to absorb the intern teachers on permanent and pensionable terms.

“If the funds to employ the teachers on permanent and pensionable basis are not available, they can pay in arrears when the funds are available,” Oyuu noted.

There are 56,000 intern teachers employed under President William Ruto’s administration.

In February, TSC Secretary General and CEO Nancy Macharia further revealed a plan to hire 20,000 more interns in July.

[Additional reporting by Lewis Nyaundi]

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