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Is teaching profession under siege?

By Peter Kamuri | September 28th 2012
By Peter Kamuri | September 28th 2012

By Peter Kamuri

In a story appearing early this week in The Standard, members attending an education stakeholders’ meeting in Ijara District, Garissa County, were stunned by revelations that school leavers would not take up a teaching careers.

According to the forum, the incessant strikes have demeaned the value of the profession in the eyes of the students. Moreover, parents have been discouraging their sons and daughters from joining the sector. And unsurprisingly, the district has not enrolled a single candidate to join any teacher’s training college for the last ten years.

Teachers in public schools resumed work this week after participating in a three-week strike agitating for higher pay. The industrial action had been called by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers Union (Kuppet).

Role model

People have varied options of the teaching profession. An overwhelming majority regards teachers as important people, who mould all the highly placed professionals we see around – from doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, accountants and others.

“Without teachers, you can not have the professionals we have around. Indeed, when one is at school, the teacher acts as role model and has great influence on who one becomes in future. A teacher can kill or nurture an interest in individual’s future career,” says James Mwangi, a retired teacher.   But Akelo Misori, the Secretary General Kuppet, admits that the teaching profession has been disparaged in Kenya unlike countries like Japan, Finland and Singapore where a teachers’ place in society is highly valued.

“In this countries, teachers are paid well and respected,” says Misori.

Misori insists that he does not regret being a teacher.

“I am not apologetic being a teacher. I find the career to be a very fulfilling job.”

Not Miserable

According to Misori, the decision to go on strike does not mean that teachers are a miserable lot.

“This strike was about two issues; to restore professional integrity and to get just pay and equity.”

However, there are some people who loathe the teaching profession. They argue that the entry to this profession is unrestricted, and therefore it attracts even people who are not serious in pursuing it as a career.

Others regard it as a career of last resort. This opinion has been perpetuated by findings that many practicing teachers do not regard the profession as a long-term career. To them, it is just a temporary stopover, hoping that they will land into greener pastures in later.

“The teaching profession is critical as it helps to nurture skills that most employers would look for. Teachers have good analytical, leadership and decision-making skills. They are also good at communication skills and that is it can be regarded as a very versatile career,” says Mwangi.

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