Ensure contracted teachers are absorbed on permanent terms

Mahiakalo Junior Secondary School Geography teacher Irene Odebero assisting pupils during a lesson in their classroom on April 19, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

In the clamor to have a constitution that responds to the plight of teachers of Kenya, stakeholders in the education sector pushed to have teachers get their independent commission.

The 2010 constitution therefore, under Article 237, gave powers to the Teachers Service Commission to (TSC), among other functions, to employ teachers of all grades and qualifications.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has been on the forefront of demanding that the government employs more teachers to reduce teachers’ workload and enhance quality teaching and learning in response to the SDG 4 Agenda that highlights the need for accessible, affordable and quality education to all citizens of the world by 2030.

The introduction of Free Primary Education (FPE) in 2003 led to a huge influx of learners to public primary schools. This policy was followed by another policy of Free Day Secondary Education that was meant to enable learners who graduated from primary schools go to secondary.

Around the same time, government brought in the 100 per cent transition policy, which basically meant that all learners from primary schools should move on to secondary schools. These three policies pilled pressure on teacher establishment, school infrastructure and teaching/ learning materials.

KNUT began to mount pressure on the government for the employment of teachers to address the teacher shortage. Union leaders organised meetings in branches, where all teachers attended and addressed the need to have more teachers employed. These meetings culminated in industrial unrest that paralysed teaching and learning countrywide. 

In response to KNUT pressure on teacher establishment/teacher shortage, which has been a challenge, the National Treasury, Ministry of Education, Teachers’ Service Commission and KNUT signed a memorandum of understanding dated July 22, 2010 that ended the two weeks-long impasses to have teachers employed on contract basis to mitigate the huge shortage of teachers.

This arrangement was a stop-gap measure and necessary at that time although it was against the International Labor Organization laws on engaging workers on contract terms for a period exceeding a year.

Unfortunately, TSC, through amendment of the code of regulations of teachers, sneaked this employment operando into the code of regulations revised 2015 under part V (56) (2) B, 58(1) B (5). This employment trend has been going on ever since, with the employment of more teachers called interns, for the CBC.

TSC has employed a large number of teachers under this arrangement to address the Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) teacher shortage, the primary schools and secondary schools sections. The contractual terms of most of these teachers are ending, but they do not know what to do or how the commission will handle their cases. 

To be precise, the contract of the first cohort of 20,000 JSS intern teachers is coming to an end on December 31, 2023. This is a month ahead and the commission has not made any communication on what will happen. Another cohort of 1000 primary school teachers and 450 secondary school teachers are having their contracts end on April 1, 2024.

The contract of the second cohort of 18,000 JSS teachers will come to an end on September 1, 2024. The same applies to 2,000 teachers on the same terms in primary schools. This is a large number that must be managed well in terms of entry and exit.

KNUT demands that in the ongoing review of the code of regulations of Teachers, clauses 56 and 58 be removed because they violate International Labour Conventions and Laws, and also the Labour Relations Act, 2007 clause 5. (1). to do away with the employment of teachers on contract, especially those getting into the profession for the first time.

The union opines that given the fact these teachers have served well and with distinction, the commission should, without subjecting them to any other prejudice, convert them to permanent and pensionable status upon the expiry of their contractual period. These teachers should be given first priority in the impending hiring of teachers in 2024.

Moving forward, the commission needs to understand that employers all over the world over are always the first defenders of workers. This is the only way employers can be assured of productivity. Decisions made by employers, even if they are intended to regulate the market, should be those that spur hope and confidence in the employees.

The Union wishes to assure teachers who have been working under the highlighted categories and are due to exit that this union shall do all within its means to ensure a fair treatment.

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