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Kuppet raises concern over JSS fate after ruling on intern teachers

 Kuppet Secretary General Akelo Misori. [Boniface Okendo, Standard] 

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) has raised fears over the fate of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) after the court outlawed the employment of teachers on an internship basis. 

While welcoming the court ruling, Kuppet officials said the Junior Secondary School (JSS) is in limbo since the decision could mean that the learners no longer have teachers. 

The union has urged the Teachers Service Commission not to appeal the Employment and Labour Relations Court (ELCR) judgment but instead convert the contract of the interns to permanent and pensionable terms. 

Speaking at the Kuppet headquarters in Nairobi on Thursday, Secretary-General Akelo Misori said: "We urge the TSC not to appeal the judgement but to work with Kuppet and other stakeholders in thinking through legal and just means to bridge the deficit in teaching service."

"Teachers who are qualified could not be categorised in this manner," he added.

Justice Bryrum Ongaya on Wednesday ruled that TSC violated the intern teachers' right to fair labour practice as they are qualified and possess teaching licenses.

“The respondents have not exhibited statutory regulatory or policy arrangements that would entitle the first respondent (TSC) to employ interns. Ideally, the first respondent should employ registered teachers upon terms that are not discriminatory and to meet the optimal staffing needs in public schools,” ruled Justice Ongaya.

Misori accused TSC of playing partisan and neglecting its mandate as an independent state agency. 

"So when they were engaged in this casual manner in the determination of internship, it is a real indictment that it (TSC) lost its independence and therefore followed other tracks," he said. 

He challenged the commission to collaborate with the Legislature to seek more funds to resolve the looming stalemate in the education sector. 

"It is now a choice for the government and TSC to delve into this matter and ask for funding to employ 20,000 teachers on PnP because that's the legal mandate of the commission," said Misori. 

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) also hailed the court ruling as a significant victory for intern teachers. 

“The issue of interns has been a thorn in the flesh much as it was a stop-gap measure, which we actually support, it is prudent that these teachers become permanent and pensionable especially those who have proceeded for a whole year on internship,” Knut's Secretary General Collins Oyuu said on Wednesday. 

However, the National Parents Association (NPA) has registered its reservations about the ruling. 

NPA chairman Silas Obuhatsa said that the parents support the initial directive by the president to extend the contract of intern teachers for another year. 

Initially, the interns had been promised a review of their contract to Permanent and Pensionable terms and the end of their first year of service, but president Ruto in December, last year said they have to work for another extra year if they are considered for employment. 

"For now we cannot comment. We still have no say because TSC may also appeal the court ruling. For us we will go with the President's directive," Obuhatsa told The Standard. 

He exuded confidence that learning will not be interrupted as TSC has not withdrawn the intern teachers from schools.

This came as the intern teachers under TSC payroll on Wednesday said they will move to court to compel the employer to pay them arrears for the period they have worked. 

In a press briefing in Nairobi, the intern teachers led by their spokesperson Boniface Omari criticised the commission for failing to pay them for the 15 months they have served. 

"We are moving to the courts to seek compensation for the time we have served TSC without pay. The Commission owes us Sh26 billion which should be given to us immediately," said Omari. 

"We want the government to pursue the commission to fully comply with the court decision that teachers bearing similar qualifications should receive equal pay," he added.  

The intern teachers have been the backbone of the implementation of CBC, especially at the Junior School level.

President William Ruto's administration employed 56,000 intern teachers between August 2022 and 2023 who have been key in the implementation of JSS that began two years ago. 

Each school across the country got two intern teachers to handle the Junior school level, a meagre number that education experts say poses a threat to the quality of learning. 

Recently, TSC indicated intentions to employ 20,000 more teachers on an internship basis in a bid to bridge the deficit of the teacher-student ratio.

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