Rough road for graduate police, prison warders in battle for better pay

A new battlefront is opening in the National Police Service and Kenya Prisons Service as graduate officers clamour for better remuneration. [Standard]

A new battlefront is opening in the National Police Service and Kenya Prisons Service as graduate officers clamour for better remuneration on account of their education.

The proliferation of colleges and universities offering degrees and diplomas on a part time basis provided an opportunity for dozens of officers to advance their studies.

But after graduating they are facing a harsh reality that the advanced degrees might not have an effect on their career progression.

One of the aggrieved prison warders described his life as “no different from the inmates we are in charge of”, observing that they are bogged down by loans they took to pursue degree courses.

It is a life on restraints.

“We are servicing loans that we took imagining that once we graduated, we would pay back comfortably but are now struggling to do so on meagre salaries.

“Education is an investment yet when you make sacrifices to advance your knowledge, you are left with a loan to repay and a useless piece of paper,” said a corporal with a master’s degree at a prison in Mt Kenya region.

Slap on the face

For the past two years, university educated officers in the disciplined forces, specifically the National Police Service and Kenya Prisons Service, have been clamouring for better salaries and promotions.

According to a number of warders who talked to Sunday Standard and requested anonymity to avoid being victimised, they had been passed over during promotions in favour of less experienced and less educated officers.

“I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education three years ago, but despite submitting my certificate to human resources, I have not been promoted. Not even my duty station has been changed,” he said.

The officer, employed in 2008, said he postponed having a family to finance his education. Officers are required to submit three copies of their degree certificate to the duty station, regional commander and prison headquarters.

Despite the frustrations in climbing up the professional ladder, the slap on the face, a number of graduate prison officers say, is the recruitment of cadet officers who are graduates and handing them jobs the long serving officers have long clamoured for.

Presently, the Kenya Prison Service has about 700 graduate officers. About half were promoted in 2017, leaving about 300 languishing in lower cadres. Like fellow State officers, members of the disciplined forces are going back to the classrooms in numbers to progress their education as a means for career mobility.

“If employees under the Public Service Commission get promoted based on their education, why can’t the same thing be applied in the prisons,” he said.

The rapid increase of satellite campuses and availability of financing have contributed to the number of employees furthering their education.

Some of the degrees popular with the prison officers are in the social sciences and include counseling, sociology, criminology, psychology and education. A graduate officer told Sunday Standard they had joined the Prisons as a last resort after they were unable to afford going to college.

Pay rise

A female warder working as a prison counselor lamented that despite choosing to further her education to gain more knowledge in her field, it has not paid off.

“Why should new officers be hired to do a task that we are more than qualified to do? We have the degree and the experience, or is it because a degree acquired while in service is useless?” the officer posed.

She is, however, lucky to be deployed in an area that aligns with their professional qualifications. Hundreds of prison officers are now pegging their hopes on Gikundi Muriuki and Josephat Gatika, the prison officers who moved to court on behalf of their colleagues.

“We are aggrieved and dissatisfied with the Kenya Prisons Service since some graduate warders have been in service for more than 10 years without upward mobility or salary increment,” their lawyer John Swaka said in court.

While the warders are still hoping the court will rule favourably in their case, graduate police constables have had their day in court.

Employment and Labour Relations Court has ordered the National Police Service to pay graduate constables a salary matching the rank of inspectors of police.

In the May 17 judgment, Justice Byram Ongaya ruled the graduate police constables should be paid the same as inspectors whether the degree was attained before or after joining the service. But unlike the police, the Prisons department does not have a job group for graduate constables.