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Make no mistake, teachers need to earn more than an MP!

By By Peter Nguli | September 9th 2012

By Peter Nguli

You never would have guessed it from the education strike debate going on in Kenya, but it turns out that the teaching profession doesn't exist in some sort of bizarre alternate universe, operating under its own unique economic principles.

According to a new study at the London School of Economics, if you pay teachers more, you'll attract better results.

In fact there is a direct correlation between teacher pay and student performance, with a 10 percent increase in teacher pay resulting in a 5 to 10 percent increase in examination scores. The more you pay teachers, the more they are motivated to do a better job.

I apologise for using my dear, lovely hard-working president Mwai Kibaki and my loved dearest Prime Minister, Raila Odinga as examples here. No ills intended. We all understand intuitively the difference a great teacher the makes. But did you know that at one time, these two principals had to be six years old; make no mistake, they never jumped that step, they had to go through it.

I imagine Kibaki and Raila at a kindergarten, both six years old but do not know where the toilet is and they have to be shown where to pee, but because the time doesn't allow, they pee on the shorts and wet their underpants with their poo. I guess there were no underpants by then, so may be they used wooden or Aluminium pants.

Their teacher had the duty to clean the mess without knowing that at one time, these two will be the principals leading one of the greatest economies in Africa. You would laugh, because that teachers are paid peanuts is a pernicious fallacy. It is a mockery.

For when Mutula Kilonzo, the Education Minister, mocks teachers as lazy, avaricious incompetents and threatens teachers with sacking, it makes us laugh! He demeans the profession and makes it harder to attract the best and brightest from the profession. Teachers are the best professionals ever. We should be elevating teachers, not throwing darts at them.

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This brings us to the touchy subjects of talent and compensation. Most of us would agree that our teachers are underpaid while our MPs continue to increase their salaries exponentially. The speaker of our parliament, Mr. Marende, so mockingly says that Sh850,000 is 'peanuts'. But what he fails to understand is that his one month salary can pay about 200 teachers in one month.

Yet he does completely nothing about it apart from rumour mongering and politics. I am not a teacher and I will never be. But give me a bar of chocolate and I will promise you that were it not for your teacher, you will not be able to read this article. That teacher taught you English and you need to appreciate that. That is why you can read this story about whom you are today.

That teacher taught you about science; about electrons, protons and neutrons. He taught you about geography and now you can guess in a map that Al Shabaab are operating from the west of our country. If it were not for my teacher, I would never post this article.

Just imagine all the professionals we have, just imagine all doctors, just imagine all astronauts, engineers, poets, surgeons, lecturers, professors, educationists, judges, historians and lawyers; just imagine all nurses and just imagine all those MPs, they were all taught by that teacher you see on a bike, yes that teacher on a bike cycling along Chemelil factory!

Today, the MPs can sit in parliament and debate in very good English. Even the constitution is written in English. That English was taught by your teacher that 'primitive' teacher as you call her. Make no mistake, even these journalists posting this article were all taught by that primary teacher.

Even you, yourself, the reader of this article, give credit to that teacher. Just why is it that your school primary teacher is earning peanuts? Why can't you support him/her to earn better and motivate him/her so that your children can be responsible citizens of tomorrow? In my own understanding, the teachers strike is genuine and needs to continue till the end of times, it needs to be supported by all who understand their plight. I think teachers must never relent, they must keep on keeping on, however long it takes. Teachers need a better pay, that is final and non-debatable.

Pay and working conditions

When the education minister says that there is no increment for teachers’ salaries, listeners are bound to wonder if their hearing is faulty. Surveys of people who do not choose teaching as a career revealed the profession's pay and working conditions were important factors in their decision.

It also raises doubts about continuing the traditional workforce policy focus on reducing class sizes. Large falls in average class sizes over recent decades had not led to big improvements in children's literacy and numeracy.

Today, teachers have numerous work due to free primary education and compensated education arena initiative, it means teachers have an overload to cater for. Yet, the education ministry is so strict to outlaw public tuitions in schools where teachers would have earned an extra penny to cater for their needs.

Does Mutula Kilonzo really understand this? Can you just imagine a primary teacher earning 15,000/= a month? Is this a mockery or it is a tradition in modern day Kenya? If you are a primary teacher and you live in Nairobi, you must be paying about 15,000/= for your house? So what are you left with? It means that your salary goes to paying your house which is never enough anyway.

I have no regrets to say that teachers are the most important professionals ever in the country. I will worship all my teachers who made me who I am today. I will thank them for making me an academician. Teachers are supposed to be the most highly paid people in Kenya.

If Kenya wants to realise the vision 2030, there is only one solution; pay teachers well, these professionals will make Kenya transform; they will make Kenya the greatest superpower in East and Central Africa. I think teachers must be paid better than an MP.

Because they do better than an MP. Thus their strike is justified and needs every support from every citizen of the Republic of Kenya. For teachers model the society, they instil discipline and make professionals. Teachers are the most important professionals ever in the society.

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