JSS case reveals teachers' pain, concerns over quality of CBC

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers Bomet branch officials lead Junior Secondary Teachers in protest along the streets of Bomet town. [Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]

It is now emerging that a teacher who was not competent in a subject area taught in junior secondary school (JSS) for a whole year.

These details are contained in a labour dispute filed on behalf of the 30,550 JSS teachers hired by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) as interns.

The case filed by the Forum for Good Governance and Human Rights on behalf of the interns indicates that the teachers were not supervised. They were left to struggle with all subjects on their own.

“The second respondent, (Minister for Education), is handling the lives and rights of the children casually as test guinea pigs to confirm whether the CBC can work. I state this is indeed a worrying state,” the court heard.

The tutors were to seal staffing gaps in the new level of education after the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) was rolled out.

The case filed before Justice Byrum Ongaya raises questions on whether all children in JSS received equal education standards for the past one year

The court heard that TSC gave contracts to the interns to teach two subjects. However, they ended up teaching everything including sciences and mathematics.

At the same time, the interns were aggrieved that some of their colleagues were hired on permanent and pensionable terms even though they have the same qualifications.

They claim they were retained under the terms of teachers who are still in colleges and universities, placed in schools to learn how to teach.

There were claims that despite the tutors getting an ‘intern stipend’, TSC had gone ahead to deduct all taxes and contributions, including the controversial housing levy.

One of the affected teachers filed an affidavit in support of the case. Oroso Oganga said  he was posted to Eking Narok Primary School, within Kajiado County. His academic papers indicated that he graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Education (arts).

According to Oganga, his contract with the TSC was clear that he would teach History or Christian religious education.

Discriminatory contract

However, he stated that when he reported to the school on February 7, he ended up teaching Computer Science, Integrated Science, Social Studies, CRE, Health Education, and Life Skills.

He said he was also responsible for both administration and management of the class.

Oganga said despite all the work, he went home with a stipend of just Sh20,000.

He argued that the contract for an intern was discriminatory and exploitative as he is a trained and registered teacher.

According to him, the contract ought to have been for a student teacher or simply those who were still in universities or teaching colleges and not for persons who had completed their studies and registered by the TSC.

“The first respondent has recruited, engaged and retained me without paying me any remunerations as a trained and registered teacher. I am only receiving a consolidated stipend of Sh20, 000. I further state that whereas I am paid the said stipend, the first respondent is subjecting the same to all statutory deductions, including the housing levy,” he claimed.

His payslip indicated that he was paying Sh300 for the Housing Levy, Sh1,080 for the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), and Sh750 for the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

In January this year, TSC advertised for the recruitment of 21,500 intern teachers to be posted to the JSS and a further 4,000 intern teachers to be deployed in the primary schools. The posting was to be in the public schools.

The commission noted that no teachers were teaching at Junior Secondary Schools and the recruitment therefore targeted about 30,550 of them to teach Grade Seven.

TSC indicated that Grade 7 subjects are beyond the scope of the teachers currently deployed in primary schools.

In the circular, the commission said the teachers posted in the JSS were of different specialties; humanities, sciences, languages mathematics, or technical for optimal utilization.

It however indicated that the TSC sub-county selection panel ought not to discriminate the applicants based on the subject specialization as long as the applicant was a qualified teacher.

It was claimed that there were two sets of teachers who were deployed by the TSC. Those under permanent and pensionable terms and those hired as interns.

According to the petitioners, teachers are working in the same public institutions with the same qualifications but under different terms.

“The other teachers, who were recruited before this unlawful policy was introduced, enjoy full packages yet they are not more qualified that those under intern arrangement. These teachers called interns as per the said circular are handling bigger teaching loads than those employed before them, as they teach to a maximum of 14 learning areas,” the lobby led by Leonard Ochieng claimed.

The tutors want the court to block TSC from terminating the contracts of those it hired as interns.

This comes as a separate JSS teacher sued to have the President’s ear on the matter. 

Stella Nekesa moved to court claiming that she had severally sought to meet President William Ruto to share her idea of changing Kenya’s education sector.

Nekesa said: “All indicators have led to the conclusion that that our education needs to be reformed.”

She argued that the only man who held the yam and the knife for this change has not met her despite her efforts.

Nekesa claimed she initially sought an audience from former President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018 but he left without giving her an appointment.

President’s desk

According to her, the meeting will be about a discussion about her book dubbed; A complete stimulus framework proposal for the successful reformation of Africa’s (Kenya’s) Education.

She stated that despite graduating as a teacher, she stayed without a job for years until TSC, this year, hired her as a JSS teacher.

“I used to call at least once every week. I was always told that they had put the matter at the President’s desk and that I had to wait for the president to act. I waited for the president’s response for some time until I decided to call back again and again…. I inquired from the office of the Head of Public Service why I had not received any feedback from H.E. the President and as had now become their routine response to me, they told me to write another letter,” said Nekesa.

In her case, she wants the court to find that failure by the two presidents to give her a meeting appointment violates her rights. She is also demanding that the court should order that her book be surrendered to the government for Sh2 billion.

Nekesa also wants an order to direct the President to meet her so she can explain more about the book and how it will be used to improve the country’s education sector.