Allow junior secondary teachers to join unions of their choice

Xavarian Junior Secondary School headmaster George Polo distributes books during the first day of JSS in January 2023. [Michael Mute, Standard]

The Kenya National Union of Teachers appreciates the gains made through President William Ruto's efforts to streamline our education sector.

Our country has had challenges within the education sector that have slowed the progress of education, but with the current regime's approach, we are certain and hopeful that the sector shall thrive.

Our union is properly constituted to represent teachers in the basic education sector as guided by the current recognition agreement signed between the employer Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and us on June 29, 2021.

It is also keen to sustain the spirit of Article 41 of the Constitution. Kenyan teachers, just like any other workers of the world, are entitled to benefit from all sets of laws bordering on protection of their rights within and outside their work environment. The right to belong to a union of their choice is one of them.

The Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) presented its report to the head of state on August 1, 2023 at State House, Nairobi. One of the recommendations was that the management of education from PP1 to Grade 9 be put under a formation called 'complimentary school'. This is simply interpreted to mean all education management functions, infrastructure development, staffing, planning, curriculum implementation and administration should be handled under a single head of institution.

This was after stakeholders gave their views in regards to the terms of reference given to guide their work. Among critical areas PWPER could have looked at might have been the number of students in primary schools, the human resource involved and available space for expansion as well as the nature of the new curriculum and how it transits from lower grades to advanced levels.

There are over 28,000 public primary schools in Kenya and 12,000 secondary schools. If the initial idea of having Junior Secondary School (JSS) domiciled in secondary schools as proposed by other stakeholders was to suffice, available classes in the secondary schools would only have managed to accommodate a third of the learners.

The decision, therefore, to have JSS domiciled in the primary section was guided by the spirit of the 100 per cent transition policy initiated by the Kibaki regime in response to the SDG Agenda 4 on access, affordability and quality education to all citizens of the world by 2030, which is only six years away.

All learners graduating from the primary schools have a right to join junior schools and thereafter pursue their career path lines in senior school. CBC, in its current form, seeks to address competencies and skills that will create employment in both the formal and non-formal sectors, hence alleviating poverty within our communities.

In the foregoing circumstances of changed work environment, increased numbers of learners in the complimentary school section and increased numbers of teachers in schools and the risks anticipated, trade unions should accept that their visibility in both action and representation must be noticed. Our recruitment drives should be in top gear to ensure that all teachers are in the solidarity movement.

The recruitment procedure of union membership is done through filling of union forms as per the tenets of the Gazette Notice that empowers unions to enlist members to their respective unions. The forms are then approved by heads of institutions and submitted to the employer to effect deductions.

We noted with regret at the end of July 2023, most of our JSS teachers who are in the complimentary schools section had their dues deducted in favour of our sister union without their consent. We have cases of JSS teachers who were given recruitment forms of other unions; they handed the forms to our union officials at the grassroots and picked our forms, signed and handed them back to us. This is a clear indication that their hearts are with Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).

If anything, if the recruitment procedure involves the head teachers approval, who which head teacher in secondary school section will approve union membership of a teacher in the primary schools section? It goes without saying that these teachers should belong to the union that represents their interests.

We are therefore of the opinion that while respecting Chapter Four gains of the Kenya constitution and accepting that we are of age to put into action our thoughts and live in dignity, statutory tools of our engagement with the employer which include but are not limited to; the Labour Relations Act of 2007, the Employment Act of 2012, the Recognition Agreements between TSC and Knut 2021, our Knut constitution and the Kenya Constitution be respected when membership is being apportioned to these unions. Let the JSS teachers be allowed the freedom to choose the unions they want to belong to.

We wish to reiterate our commitment to supporting the president's effort to ensure the competency-based curriculum is well nurtured.

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