Teachers in volatile areas deserve government assurance on their safety

On August 28, 2023, we witnessed a group of teachers demonstrating outside the Teachers Service Commission headquarters in Upper Hill, Nairobi. This was as a result of continued threats from the extremist Al Shabaab, which has resulted in injuries and the deaths of non-local teachers in Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo, Marsabit, Lamu, Baringo, West Pokot, Turkana and Tana River.

These areas have continued to endure sporadic cases of insecurity occasioned by inter/intra communal conflicts, banditry, acts of terrorism and cattle rustling. This has adversely affected the security and welfare of teachers, hence diminished their performance and general productivity.

Teachers who are non-locals are called names such as ‘nywele ngumu’ and 'kafir'. They are discriminated against on food prices in the market; they are harassed by some learners and are not able to take any disciplinary measures. They are threatened out of their residential places and have to sleep out in the cold.

The National Police Reservists demand payment from them in order to give security among many other frustrations. These teachers spend their meagre salaries on travel.

These teachers get advance information about the attacks, but whenever they report, they are never guaranteed their security in line with the Witness Protection Act of 2018. They are even harassed more by the authorities they report to. Head teachers of the schools where non-locals teach rubbish claims of insecurity.

They go as far as exiting them from the payroll once they learn that they have made any reports to authorities. Police have told teachers to their faces that they cannot guarantee their security. We met 186 teachers with similar complaints, 34 of them had already been interdicted and others continued receiving online exit messages caused by their head teachers out of the August 28 incident of exercising their constitutional right under Article 37 of the Constitution.

A teacher in this state of mind cannot give quality education. A frustrated, demotivated and threatened teacher cannot deliver in class. We therefore have a responsibility of finding a lasting solution.

It is the responsibility of government to provide quality education to all in fulfillment of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on principles 5, 7 and 10 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the United Nations concerning the promotion of the ideals of peace, mutual respect and understanding between people among the youthful people of our population.

Education CS Amina Mohammed pushed for the Affirmative Action consideration to areas affected by these cases in the sector to allow Kenyans in these areas with grade D+ in KCSE to enroll in teachers training colleges so as to address the situation.

The Kenya National Qualifications Framework Authority gave its advisory, especially in facilitating mobility and progression, training and career paths. The CS’s effort bore fruit and 3,000 teachers were admitted to Teacher Training Colleges but were later terminated when TSC and other agencies obtained a court injunction. This effort would have encouraged locals from the affected areas to enroll into colleges to address the aspect of discrimination and segregation. To date, no one has ever thought of coming up with a lasting solution.

It is through this policy that the government would have enhanced the spirit of Affirmative Action Policies, both locally and internationally on equality and freedom from discrimination and the Article 56 on minorities and marginalised groups’ interests.

The Knut therefore proposes that the sector revisits the affirmative action plan for training teachers in these regions as earlier attempted, involve local leaders in addressing the aspect of discrimination, assure these teachers of their security and exercise the Witness Protection Act for people volunteering information to authorities. Rogue government officers who are working with terrorists should also be dealt with firmly.