Little to celebrate as Kenya marks global teachers' day

A teacher in a class Migori Muslim Primary School in January 2019. [File, Standard]

As the world celebrates on the World Teachers' Day, 2020 has presented teachers with painful consequences with little to celebrate about.

The pandemic has forced millions of teachers out of work with many opting to take up any job in the informal sector to meet their daily needs. The quick turnaround in a normal situation rendered about 1.6 billion children out of school.  

In Kenya, the World Teachers' Day also coincides with the reopening of tertiary institutions which will take in final year students as directed by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha.

“Following broad-based consultations, the Ministry of Education notifies the public that the progressive re-opening of education institutions will start with the re-opening of universities and tertiary institutions with effect from Monday 5, October 2020,” read a statement from the CS.

The institutions are required to enforce strict observance of Covid-19 measures including monitoring of body temperature.

This year has also shipped teachers to a weird limbo where the normal physical lessons were impossible due to Covid-19 and the digital method of conducting classes was a high dangling fruit far from their reach.

Speaking during the celebrations at the Kenya National Union of Teacher (KNUT) headquarters, KNUT Secretary General Wilson Sossion has blamed TSC for failing to treat tutors and their unions with dignity.

“Currently, if you are a member of KNUT, you are not qualified to be promoted with TSC to any administrative position,” said Sossion.

Sossion also faulted the teachers’ employer for gross discrimination by having teachers serving in the same grade, with the same qualifications being remunerated differently on the basis of some being in KNUT and other non-KNUT

“This is a system TSC introduced through the application of two parallel payrolls,” lamented Sossion.

The bias on the side of the teacher employer forced the intervention of the National assembly committee on education which directed TSC to stop discriminating teacher based on their affiliation.

However, the crisis brought about by the pandemic has come with new opportunities for teachers. 

The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) is in the process hiring 11,574 teachers to ensure the government’s 100 per cent transition policy from primary to secondary school especially when students have lost almost a full academic year. The process is due to be finalized between October 8 and 14 when the teachers will receive their letters of appointment from county directors.

The TSC has also announced it will promote 1,000 teachers while funds to aid in the reopening of schools and paying of Board of Management (BoM) teachers has also been released.

Even though 2020 has created a bleak reality for teachers and the education sector, strides have been made to secure the financial needs of teachers as phases of their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) their unions negotiated with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) have come to pass.

In June, the final phase of the 2016 CBA was effected when Sh55 billion was released to improve salaries of senior teachers and school administrators. However, thousands of teachers had little to smile about because the CBA only benefited the senior teachers leaving out the majority of teachers.

The pandemic has also led to increased confusion in the education sector as teacher remain idling in schools after being directed to report back to school last Monday, September 28.

Images and videos of idle teachers whiling their time away in school playgrounds suggest that they have so much time on their hands but little to do.

There is confusion over what the next step is supposed to be after immediate reopening plans were shelved after the president said that reopening will only take place once the safety of learners is assured.

“Learning institutions should only be reopened when we have and can sufficiently guarantee the safety of all our children. Let us not focus on when schools will reopen but on how they will reopen," Said President Kenyatta during the National Covid-19 address.

With this year’s theme of the teacher’s days being “Leading in crisis, reimagining the future”, teachers in Kenya are finding a huge time leading and imagining the future where enforcing social distance, masks and temperature checks might be part of their job description.