Schools open as junior secondary teachers stay away from class

JSS teachers protest in Nakuru. 60,000 intern teachers want to be employed on permanent terms. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Schools reopened in many parts of the country on a day junior secondary teachers held demos in various towns to protest the Teachers Service Commission's refusal to employ them on permanent terms.

In Nairobi, a section of the intern teachers staged demonstrations at the commission’s offices.

Owino Okello, the chairman of intern teachers in Nairobi County, stated that they would not yield to threats in their decision to strike.

He cited a ruling by the Employment and Labour Relations Court, which nullified the internship status for trained, registered and licensed teachers despite the court giving the TSC a grace period to oblige.

“In light of the ruling by the Employment and Labour Relations Court and the subsequent nullification of internship for trained, registered and licensed teachers, we will obey the ruling of the court by staying away from schools,” Okello said

In their demands, the intern teachers want to be paid salaries that match that of their counterparts in permanent and pensionable status for the period they have been working,

They also seek their contracts to be modified and enhanced to permanent and pensionable terms.

In its ruling, a fortnight ago, the court found their employment contracts to be illegal.

However, last week the same court gave a reprieve to TSC to maintain the status of their employment until the commission either gets temporary orders from the Court of Appeal or reaches a compromise.

In his ruling, Justice Byrum Ongaya gave TSC a grace period of three months, to seek intervention from ahigher court or absorb all the affected teachers on permanent and pensionable terms.

TSC is yet to respond to their demands or take action for their participation in industrial action.

A spot-check by The Standard within Nairobi county established that most schools had reopened and students steadily reporting.

At Donholm Primary School, the school head Johnson Nzioka indicated that they had registered an 85 percent return.

“So far the progress is good and by next week we expect all learners to be back in school,” Nzioka said.

 In Nakuru, the tutors vowed not to return to school until their demands were met. They demonstrated along Kenyatta Avenue, insisting that the government should confirm those on an internship to permanent and pensionable terms.

The teachers’ chairperson, Stanley Metobo, stated they had downed their tools. “We have laid down our tools. We are not going back to school due to the government’s failure to take junior secondary school matters seriously,” Metobo said.

He said that he had completed his one-year internship programme but his contract was extended instead of being confirmed.

Metobo expressed his disappointment, calling on the government to honour its pledge by taking care of the welfare of the teachers.

Fazul Mwangi called on the government to obey court orders, indicating that the internship was against the law.

“MPs are the ones dishing out employment letters, which has since encouraged nepotism and discrimination inconveniencing those not privileged,” Mwangi added.

He noted that the Sh17,000 pay was too low and can’t cater for their needs due to the high cost of living.

Cecilia Wangechi claimed that the government has mistreated and failed them even after using resources to attain their degrees.

“The government has failed us. They called us painters and cleaners, yet we are trained, qualified, and licensed teachers who should be respected,”  she said.

In Taita Taveta County, dozens of JSS teachers refused to report back to schools and instead engaged in street protests to demand improved terms of service.

The teachers numbering about 400 caused traffic jams and disrupted businesses in Mwatate town, the county’s Teachers Service Commission headquarters.

Led by their interim officials, secretary general Luke Wambua, organising secretary Mr Reubin Iligha and treasurer Peninah Nyambu, the teachers demanded, among other things, confirmation to permanent and pensionable terms.

At the same time, the teachers insisted on immediate compensation of JSS intern teachers who have been underpaid.

“We will not report back to work until the government fully addresses our concerns.  We will be staying at home, and we shall be protesting every Monday to press the government to address our concerns,” said Wambua.

“The Sh17,000 pay is too low for graduate teachers,” Wambua  noted

On the other hand, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Taita Taveta branch officials  demanded the immediate confirmation of 46,000 JSS intern teachers on permanent and pensionable terms. ‘

’JSS teachers deserve job security and proper benefits as other cteachers employed by the commission,’’ they said.

The Kuppet officials also urged the TSC to employ more teachers to bridge the gap of teacher shortage in junior secondary schools (JSS).

“Kuppet demands that head of institutions managing JSS cease any form of victimisation and intimidation of JSS teachers. We at the same time advocate for a respectful and supportive work environment for all educators,” they stated in a petition.

JSS teachers in Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Muranga, Meru and Embu counties held protests and vowed to stay away from classes until their demands were met.

In Kirinyaga, JSS chairperson Josephat Kariuki urged the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the Teachers Service Commission on job placements.

“EACC should investigate why teachers who graduated between 2012 and 2022 are still unemployed while a teacher who graduated from last year has a permanent job,” said Kariuki. 

In Meru JSS  Secretary-General Lewis Kithinji, Chairman Karuti Lubarua and Organising Secretary Winnie Kawira. 

The tutors vowed they would not report back to school when schools eventually reopen unless the government accepts their terms by compensating and absorbing them under permanent and pensionable terms. 

“It is either you confirm us or we don’t go back to school,” Kithinji said.

In Nyeri, JSS chairperson, Purity Wangechi, said the 700 teachers will not resume duty until TSC meets their demands. “We are telling the government that we will no longer accept that monthly salary of Sh17,000,” she said.

Kuppet Nyeri Executive Secretary Francis Wanjohi said TSC must adhere to the directive issued by the courts regarding absorbing JSS teachers into permanent and pensionable terms. 

“As Kuppet, we are standing in solidarity with these teachers because they deserve to be well remunerated to perform their duties well,” Wanjohi said.

And in Vihiga County, Kuppet Secretary-General, Sabala Inyeni, told TSC that it was their duty to confirm the  teachers.

“No teacher in the JSS class will report back to school until their demands are met,” said Sabala.

In Kakamega County, Kuppet branch Chairman Johnston Wabuti called on TSC to implement the court ruling and that intern teachers should be given employment letters.

The strike now threatens to impede the  learning for more than 2.5 million student across the country.

[Additional reporting by Boniface Gikandi, Benard Lusigi, Jane Mugambi, Phares Mutembei, Purity Mwangi, James Murimi and Muriithi Mugo]

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