Bring back invaluable induction period for newly hired teachers

A teacher in a classroom. [Getty Images]

The government froze recruitment of teachers in 1998 due to purported high expenditure in the education sector and subsequently lifted the ban in 2001 but on replacement basis. By 2002, the shortfall of teachers had risen to 12,479 countrywide.

There has been a continuous shortage of teachers which is attributed to many factors that include, but are not limited to; resignation and joining better employment opportunities, retirement, deregistration on grounds of discipline and death. As at July 2022, the teacher shortage stood at 116,000 in both primary and secondary schools.

Teacher employment/recruitment before 1998 was done directly from universities and teacher training colleges. Staffing and employment letters for successful teachers were issued in respective colleges by the deans of students. What followed during the confirmation of employment for all the teachers sent to different areas was ecstatic.

The then District Education Officers representing the employer (TSC) invited all the newly employed teachers, all stakeholders who included representatives of teacher trade unions such as (Knut), leaders of heads associations who included Kenya Secondary School Heads Association and Kenya Primary Schools Head Teachers Association, leaders of other Social Welfare Associations within the teaching fraternity, sacco leaders, other investment leaders such as education funds. The days were packaged with induction and initiation like programmes that helped the newly employed members understand what they were getting into.

The most significant parts of the induction was on financial management. Teachers were taken through the culture of saving before borrowing. A culture that taught them the spirit of co-operative movements and the patience needed if one wanted to invest.

The induction examined the effects of Savings and Credit Co-operatives (saccos) services on members’ saving culture, it also assessed the effects of saccos on members’ saving culture, and examined strategies used by saccos to enhance members’ saving culture. It was concluded that teachers needed more of their own organisations to build themselves economically and socially and not depend on banks.

The need to belong to trade unions was also emphasised. Teachers were able to appreciate the roles played by unions and gains achieved in both salaries and welfare arrangements. This made it quite easy for them to join these teacher organisations. Lack of proper induction for new entrants in any given profession has brought about discomfort at workplaces occasioned by not meeting expectations. Ultimately, mental health issues set in.

Poor work relations, unfulfilled expectations, unplanned borrowing and unguided development plans can lead one into mental health issues. What is presently happening is that there is no clear structure of employment of teachers, no clear calendar on when teachers are reporting to work and their work stations. It therefore means that very few, if any, county education structures are organising for these induction exercises.

Newly employed teachers just walk into schools and beginning to work in very unfamiliar territories. It must be remembered that since the regular employment of teachers was scrapped, most trained teachers are being employed 10 or more years after training. This has a negative impact on the manner they interact with the sector.

Back in the days, head teachers had the role of mentoring newly employed teachers on several matters, including vetting their pay slips before approving them to have loaning facilities. This had positive impacts as much as it had negative ones. The introduction of T-PAY online transaction for teachers has lessened the process of accessing lending facilities to our members, but it also has demerits. Teachers are getting these facilities in the comfort of their homes and some even over engaged to an extent that management of the remaining little amount becomes a challenge.

Over borrowing causes frustrations and can lead to depression. Most of the cases of suicide reported on teachers between the months of May and July 2022 are as a result of financial management. A survey conducted by Knut in June 2022 on causes of suicide among teachers indicated lack of mentorship and training on financial management and harassment by lenders.

From this perspective, Knut is strongly calling for the employer TSC to develop clear pathways of teacher employment now that the government has committed to employing at least 116,000 teachers within its first two years in office. This should also be enhanced through proper repealing of the delocalisation policy with clear re-routing patterns for those affected.

The employer should also initiate those induction programmes for the new entrants so that they benefit from the positive experience of those already in the profession. The teachers’ Social Welfare Associations have a human face in dealing with the teacher issues. Teachers are therefore encouraged to save within their local organisations and borrow for their development. They mean well. We are stronger when we become our brothers’ keepers.