A commentary by Eric Wamanji; “Image construction goes beyond media spin”, (The Standard, October 29, 2015) was, regrettably, condescending, self-effacing and contradictory.
While purporting to react to a tender advert on communication and media consultancy floated by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) two months ago, the writer, without provocation or explanation, descends into a tirade, accusing TSC of all manner of misdeed, and on matters that are already before courts of law.
For Wamanji and ilk, it is okay for any other entity to appeal a ruling it is dissatisfied with, but wrong for TSC to exercise its right of appeal because they don’t think so. In the absence of any explanation, one can only turn to coincidences to try and understand Wamanji’s ferociousness, more intense than the one in William Congreve’s classic, The Morning Bride.
First, Wamanji is associated with a ‘communications and public relations’ firm whose scope of work includes communication and media consultancy. Naturally then, he most probably came to know about the tender and its specifications because he is an interested party.
Secondly, the attack on TSC came almost two months after the tender was floated, and, crucially, only a few days after the results of the tender were released to those who participated.
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Given his unsavoury, coarse and outright unprofessional language about a tender in an area where he claims to offer consultancy and advice for a fee, one cannot help but wonder whether his is fury borne out of unfulfilled ambitions.
Being an interested party in communications and media consultancy, it may be difficult to interpret Wamanji’s position in any other way, except personal interest.
Thirdly, Wamanji attempts, with very limited success, to exonerate all the other parties from any blame by portraying teachers’ unions as the “more sinned against than sinning”, as Shakespeare puts it in King Lear.
In fact, more than half of the article is about some rather gratuitous advise on how TSC should “seize golden PR opportunities” and “showcase compassion streak” and “construct friendship and trust” by saying yes to each and every demand made by unions.
Strangely, he even tries to underplay the role of the Judiciary in the determination and resolution of this particular dispute, in complete disregard of the rule of subjudice.
I do not mind this sort of argument only if it was from unions’ officials. But I have a very big problem when it is so liberally and uncritically thrown around by a media and communications advisor, who should also be a journalist of some standing.
The writer should be professional enough to state whom he speaks for with such vitriol and blinding emotions. Whatever the case, such partisanship and jaundiced view is hypocritical, demeaning and counter-productive on the writer.
Suffice it to say that the context, the arguments and positions in the main dispute over whether teachers will get a pay rise have been presented in the Court of Appeal and a ruling is set to be delivered in a week’s time.
Other matters, including whether some teachers should be paid for the more than 33 days they did not work is also before court awaiting hearing and determination.
There is, however, a narrative that was retired early enough during the last strike, but has stubbornly remained stuck in Wamanji’s mind like a tick. That because a lower court at one point ruled in favour of one party, the aggrieved party should not as much as entertain the thought of appealing the ruling.
The recourse of appeal is provided for in the judicial structure, all the way from Magistrates’ courts to the Supreme Court. For the record, TSC will not forgo its right of appeal to fit into Wamanji’s, or his client’s meaning of a ‘charming narrative’ and a utopian world built on textbook solutions to complex issues with far-reaching repercussions to the entire populace. As for the place of unions in labour and industrial relations, it is not necessary to convert the converted. TSC has lived with Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) for more than 45 years and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) since 1998.
It intends to continue doing so. In any case Kenya has robust legislation on employment and industrial issues which has in turn created a clear legal and policy framework of engagement. TSC will operate within that framework. It expects other parties to do the same.
Finally, we must be courageous and acknowledge that the frequent strikes in the teaching service will not be addressed through the simplistic and superficial approach of conceding to every demand as Wamanji prescribes.
The short-termism he advocates in favour of obvious parties will take us only so far - until the next strike a few months from the last one. Wamanji can be assured that the new TSC management is determined to bring to an end the perennial strikes.
In this, we seek very important allies; the teachers and their unions. We are certain that as professionals, teachers are equally eager to give back to the teaching profession the glory and dignity it deserves.
Mr Kamotho is TSC’s Head of Communication.