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Four years later, controversy dogs fresh efforts to retrain teachers

By Kariuki Waihenya | October 2nd 2021

St. Angela Bulimbo primary school Teacher Evelyn Watieli teaches class eight candidates during Kiswahili lesson on September 24, 2021. [Benjamin Sakwa,Standard]

The Teachers Service Commission’s four-year struggle to introduce refresher courses for all teachers has been hit by a fresh controversy.

This comes just when the Teacher Professional Development modules were ready for rollout. It revolves around the Sh6,000 annual fees for the courses and the choice of institutions offering them.

When they were first introduced in 2018 to replace the Schemes of Service which have hitherto been determining promotions, the then Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) boss Wilson Sossion challenged them in court, saying TSC should meet the cost rather than the teachers. The court temporarily stopped them until July when the unions and TSC signed a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that entrenched the courses.

The three main teachers’ unions–Knut, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), and Kenya Union of Special Needs Teachers (Kusnet)–signed the deal. Still, the unions and the heads association top officials for both primary and secondary schools met TSC officials mid last month to work out the finer details of the programmes and to hit the start button.

The hullabaloo that the courses has caused the last few days was therefore unforeseen because it comes after all the paper work has been concluded and signed. The bone of contention is not whether or not teachers need continuous learning but rather why they should be made to foot the bill for the courses.

It is generally agreed that in view of the new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC), teachers need retooling on new learning areas and changing aspects.

Professional development

Anil Khamis, a senior education lecturer at the University College London in UK and a lecturer at the Aga Khan University in Nairobi, says TSC is right in introducing the courses because they will promote professional development among undertrained or ill-qualified teachers.

“Teaching is a creative process that must articulate developments and new knowledge. Interfacing with computers and personalised learning and the neurosciences are frontiers we are entering into in Kenya and this will radically change education and how we consider and construct learning,” says Dr Khamis, noting that failure to do so could see Kenya lag behind in many areas.

He says teachers should pay for the courses “because the programmes are expected to provide a rate of return to the individual in terms of increased income, opportunities, gainful employment and empowerment”.

Dr Andew Riechi, a senior lecturer in Economics of Education at the University of Nairobi, says the courses are timely and expedient.

But he is of the view that the communication aspect to bring all teachers on board should have been more sapient.

In introducing the courses, TSC chief executive Nancy Macharia said they were prompted by the need to keep teachers abreast of contemporary teaching methods, trends in education sector and in the rest of the world and equipping them to handle CBC.

“Today’s instructional practices must have components of technology, global learning and the potential to impact a diverse range of learning styles, areas that were not key in the earlier years of the profession,” she said.

All the scholars The Saturday Standard interviewed declined to be drawn into how four institutions–Kenyatta, Mt Kenya and Riara universities as well as Kenya Education Management Institute–were chosen to offer the courses, saying it is generally expected that the right tendering processes were followed.

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