The role unions play in helping teachers embrace technology

KNUT Secretary General Collins Oyuu. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard] 

Lack of involvement of staff in decision making, discrimination at work, low pay, lack of motivation and need for quality work environment are major reasons why workers form unions.

This is what define the motivation of workers’ unity, the need to organise themselves, have a common voice and confront employers for engagements.

Teachers were not left behind in this struggle; Stephen Kioni, Samuel Ayany and other great men and women in the teaching profession came together to see different regional formations of teachers unite to form the Kenya National Union of Teachers in 1957.

The main mandate of KNUT was to represent, negotiate, advocate and members’ services. This was majorly achieved through securing formation of a single employer; the Teachers Service Commission, securing a recognition agreement that legally gives KNUT the locus standi to engage the employer and other government agencies, presenting teachers’ demands, securing demands such as unified terms and conditions of service and protecting the achievements with an aim of ensuring teachers are safe, motivated, happy and productive at work and in their homes.

The reasons of formation of teachers’ unions may have changed with time since the initial aims such as involving workers in decision making on matters that affect them, discrimination at work, improved pay and securing Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) are constant; there are emerging trends in the work and work environment. Technology is leading to a major shift in terms of teaching and learning. This calls for different approaches in managing the sector.

In the wake of the novel Covid-19, the world shut down and face to face activities were suspended for close to two years. This affected learning from early childhood to university levels. This reminded the world that technology would be an alternative means of teaching and learning. Technology is a gift of God. It is the mother of civilisations, of arts and of sciences. Technology has changed the way we live and impacted different facets of life and redefined living. Also, many complex and critical processes can be carried out with ease and greater efficiency with the help of modern technology.

Through the application of technology, living has changed for better. Most importantly, technology has revolutionized education. The importance of technology in schools cannot be ignored. In fact, with the onset of computers, it has become easier for teachers to impart knowledge and for students to acquire it. The use of technology has made teaching and learning more enjoyable.

To effectively integrate technology into teaching and learning practices, government has to work on the policy of technology in education, develop infrastructure on which this new component of teaching and learning will be anchored, train teachers and involve them in that transition and mobilise stakeholders support for its success. All these are contained in the policy on information and communication technology in education and training, 2021.

The policy which covers technology in education enables acquisition of 21st Century skills in implementation of the Competency Based Curriculum and Competency Based Education and Training (CBET). Policy formulation, capacity development, digital content and ICT infrastructure are critical pillars for the integration of ICT in education and training.

This is in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), number 9, which recognises need to develop knowledge societies where everyone has opportunities to learn and engage with others. It also highlights need for investing in ICTs.

On teacher training; Competency Based Education and Training still remains a mirage as not much is being done to realise the intentions of the policy. KNUT in ensuring it executes its roles of representation, negotiations, advocacy and service to members comes in to ensure the policy is secured, protected and then promoted to ensure it gives the best. 

The union therefore is pushing to secure space for frequent and goals-focused training with a representation in the curriculum developer at KICD. The union also participates in giving contributions towards decisions that inform plans on policy and policy implementation which includes trainings. Sitting on the Digital Literacy Programmes which designs the curriculum for digital and technological training the unions ensures that what is designed for teachers’ trainings meets world standard expectations.

KNUT is specifically focused in ensuring government through its agencies, provides adequate space for digital training to teachers for quality teaching and learning. The union ensures that the available infrastructure supports the technology being used in teaching and learning. This is done through advocacy based approaches.

After conducting research, identifying gaps experienced in the implementation of technological based teaching and learning; the union mobilises teachers, stakeholders and friends of good will to support in areas of weaknesses so as to make the entire program a success.

In all these, KNUT feels government is not doing enough. Quality of education begins from employing qualified, competent, well trained and motivated teachers. We still hold a strong opinion that in as much as teachers get trained in technology to offer quality teaching in the current global technological dispensation, training offered must be of quality.

The right infrastructure has to be put in place to support the initiative and these teachers must be motivated though good salaries so as to give their best. The future has technology at heart and should therefore be a great concern to all stakeholders.

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