Intern teachers vow to paralyse learning in row over contracts

Interim spokesperson Boniface Omari speaks after delivering the letter to TSC offices. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Uncertainty now looms following a vow by intern teachers to paralyse learning in primary schools if they are not hired by the government.

The over 21,000 Junior Secondary school teachers, who are serving in more than 23,000 public schools, have already issued a strike notice to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).

They say they will down their tools if the government does not meet their demands by Sunday. The demands include offering them permanent and pensionable employment.

Recently, President William Ruto assured the country that learning will go on as his government plans to employ Junior Secondary School (JSS) interns once they serve for two years.

In a letter addressed to TSC chief executive officer Nancy Macharia, the tutors noted that they are not ready to be taken in circles.

Speaking in Nairobi after delivering the letter to TSC offices, the interim spokesperson Boniface Omari said they are not looking back.

‘‘Following the Court Orders, we are now releasing the calendar of events that will be followed and adhered to by all Junior Secondary school teachers,’’ Omari said, cautioning parents that no learning will take place in schools.

‘‘Send children to school but be aware that there will be no qualified teacher in class to attend to them,’’ Omari added.

In a letter seen by the Standard dated January 2 to the TSC and signed by three interim officials, the teachers said they have tried all avenues to no avail.

‘‘Subject to the requirements of the Constitution, the 21,550 intern teachers have exhausted all the reconciliatory and legal mechanisms to solve the employment dispute,” the letter reads in part.

They accused the TSC, Ministry of Education, and the National government, of not honouring their promise and that their only option is to call for a strike.

They stated, ‘‘provisions of Article 41 of the Constitution and Article 41 of the Employment Act, we hereby seek to notify the above party on the strike and downing of tools beginning January 9, 2024, until when the government through TSC shall dress the issue in contention as per our legal demands.’’

The interns argue that despite the heavy workload, they earn a paltry Sh20,000 monthly stipend yet one teacher handles six subjects.

They said they are qualified and registered with TSC and do not understand why they should not be salaried.

The internship which was only for one non-renewable year contract, ended on December 31, last year.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers Secretary General Akelo Misori said the quality of teaching is going to be compromised if the teachers are not motivated.

‘‘The results in teaching must be nurtured, the failure to nurture them, is compounded when you are dealing with demotivated teachers, and casualization of teaching. You cannot engage teachers on a casual basis,” Misori observed.

He added: ‘‘If the government is complaining that they don’t have funds for the current intern teachers, how do we expect them to employ more interns to handle the second class in JSS? There is serious trouble,’’ he stated.

Jane Awuor a teacher in Nairobi, took issue with the decision to domicile the JSS in primary schools saying it was not conducive for them since the infrastructure is not enough.

‘‘We do not have libraries in primary, we do not have laboratories. How do you expect us to teach these children, how will these children learn science without physical features? Domicile us in high schools,’’ Awuor said.

The teachers said it was laughable that the TSC was threatening to hire fresh interns if they did not sign the new contract.

The strike notice comes at a time when there is a pending court case by the Forum for Good Governance and Human Rights.

Last year, the Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Justice Byram Ongaya issued an interim order binding TSC and intern teachers until the case is determined in March this year.

Last year, the TSC hired 46,000 intern teachers to bridge the gap as it bids to address the challenge of the shortage of teachers. Of these, 21,500 were deployed to JSS.