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Kuppet threatens to call strike over dismissal of intern teachers

 Kuppet acting Secretary-General Moses Nthurima (third-left) speaks during a presser on June 12, 2024. [Mike Kihaki, Standard]

The Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) has threatened a nationwide strike in solidarity with 720 intern teachers dismissed by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).

While issuing a two-week strike notice if the affected intern teachers are not reinstated, Kuppet officials accused TSC of dishonesty for regening on its promise not to victimise striking teachers.

The teachers' employer dismissed the Junior Secondary School (JSS) intern teachers for going on strike to push for permanent and pensionable employment. They were among thousands who downed tools across the country.

During the strike, TSC issued show-cause letters to the teachers for absconding duty for three weeks from May 13 to June 6. The teachers' employer said those affected failed to give satisfactory responses on why thy failed to report to work.

Kuppet has accused TSC of acting in bad faith after both parties signed a return-to-work formula on June 1.

Kuppet acting Secretary General Moses Nthurima registered the union's displeasure at the turn of events and promised to pursue all avenues to ensure the teachers are reinstated. 

“The dismissal negates the return-to-work formula that Kuppet negotiated with the Teachers Service Commission on behalf of the JSS teachers. It is sad that the TSC, which is mandated to enhance the dignity of the teaching profession, is the one treating teachers worse than casual workers,” said Nthurima.

The teachers' employer through E J Mitei cited professional misconduct as the reason for dismissing the intern teachers.

"The Commission has noted that you failed and/or ignored to respond for your absence from duty as requested vide the cause letter. In view of the above, the Commission has decided to terminate your internship engagement with effect from June 6, 2024, on the ground that you engaged in an act of professional misconduct in that you deserted duty with effect from May 13, 2024, to date while engaged as an intern teacher," the letter read in part.

Nthurima maintained that both parties agreed that teachers who resumed work by June 3, 2024, should not be victimised for engaging in the strike.

“We agreed that all show cause letters and notices issued to the teachers would be withdrawn for normalcy to return to the JSS institutions,” he said.

He questioned the timing of the sacking of the tutors at a time when the National Assembly was pushing for the allocation of Sh8.3 billion to employ 26,000 intern teachers on permanent terms.

“How can TSC fire these teachers when the budget for their conversion into permanent terms is just due for passage in Parliament?” He posed. 

In a show of solidarity with their dismissed colleagues, Edward Obwocha, Kuppet national secretary of secondary schools, declared that the union will rally all teachers to down tools if TSC does not address their grievances within two weeks.

“We have given the commission 14 days to convene a meeting with us, so that we can address the impasse. However, if they fail, we will resort to industrial action and call for all teachers to support our sacked colleagues,” Obwocha warned.

He further said the broader implications of the TSC action on the teaching fraternity continue to affect majority of teachers with some committing suicide.

“Canceling their contract means the teachers will not be eligible to work with the commission in the future. The union will safeguard the gains made with all means at our disposal. When you touch one teacher, you affect the rest,” he said.

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