Some decades back, the Teachers Service Commission headquarters used to be referred to as ‘the teachers suffering centre’. That was at the ‘Bell Bottom’ on Haile Sellassie Avenue. The cooperative bank house was christened ‘Bell bottom’ due to its shape that resembles the famous bell bottom trouser. Among its neighbours were the American Embassy. Terrorists forced its relocation when they rammed a truckload of bombs into the then American embassy in 1998.
Those days, the TSC computers would predictably break down towards month end. Getting services was a terrible experience. One’s file could disappear for weeks and miraculously reappear after ‘sharing lunch’ with a clerk at the secretariat or buying him ‘tea’. Devolution then was unknown and teachers from as far as Mandera, Lokichogio and Mbita had to camp at the headquarters to have very simple issues sorted out.
But just when you thought things have improved for the better, TSC shocks you like they did during the recent promotion interviews. First, members of the noble profession were ambushed with interview invitation letters. Some received the letters on a Friday evening and were expected to turn up for the interview early in the morning on Monday.
Teachers have gone digital; they file their tax returns and performance appraisals online. Heck, the government is dishing out laptops to lower primary school students. In the spirit of the times, the commission should have simply e-mailed the interview letters in time for teachers to adequately prepare.
The levels of preparedness in some counties were appalling. Those scheduled to appear before the panels at 7.30 in the morning were required to be at the venue an hour earlier. Some travelling from the further ends of their counties had to leave their homes at hours that belong to night runners and the devil.
The first interview in some venues was conducted towards midday. The waiting areas, especially on the first day, reminded one of the discomforts Germany dictator, Adolf Hitler must have made his visitors go through before they could reach his office. Teachers filled waiting rooms and spilled into the corridors. Those who missed seats had to stand. A number found it wise to catch up on their lost sleep.
What’s more, on the first day, some teachers were interviewed at night. No apologies were offered. Apparently, the coordinators had forgotten key TSC core values which include; professionalism, customer focus, integrity and innovativeness.
Within the short notice, teachers had combed through tonnes of materials on: the TSC Act, the Basic Education Act, commissions and task forces on education, the Ministry of Education and allied literature. ‘Image’, the TSC magazine which few teachers read became the Bible to unlock promotion doors and consequently a copy was hard to come by. Many had even uploaded possible questions on Whattsap. Others carried along their ‘Mwakenya’ notes.
At one venue, a lady teacher arrived in a Tuktuk which she had hired to transport her professional documents neatly packed in two big carton boxes. Many interview questions were not anticipated. A teacher who had just faced the panel caused near panic when he intimated that he hadn’t been asked a single question on the TSC.
“Imagine being asked what I would do if a lady refused to leave my office and declared that she was interested in me!” he reported. Another claimed that he had been asked so many questions on the Constitution, he was left wondering whether he was being interviewed for admission to the roll of advocates or to the next job group. A stressed Donatta could not remember Okonkwo’s official name and left the otherwise stern panelists in stitches! One wonders, did TSC conspire to fail teachers?