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Why Kenyan teachers can expect better things in 2017

UREPORT
By Faith Onuonga | January 4th 2017

The deal struck by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) last year was the best thing to happen for the country’s education sector in decades.

That TSC has pledged to stick to its side of the deal is even better news.

In her new year message to teachers, CEO Nancy Macharia called for co-operation and support in the provision of better teaching and learning outcomes.

In return, she pledged that TSC was working on modalities to implement a collective bargaining agreement brokered with teachers’ unions in October 2016 that will see the lowest-paid teacher earning Sh27,195.

TSC’s change of heart after years of confrontation with teachers was a step in the right direction.

It will contain uncalled for industrial unrest in the teaching profession and provide adequate time for syllabus coverage and quality teaching.

Under the latest CBA, TSC has allocated funds to promote teachers across all grades. Some 14,327 teachers have been promoted in the past one year alone.

The bad blood between teachers and TSC reached its peak in September 2015, when teachers went on strike to demand a 50 to 60 per cent pay hike. In the ensuing stand-off, many teachers were reduced to beggars when TSC froze their salaries.

And students, left on their own, developed a sense of defiance against their teachers.

But that is water under the bridge now. It is time to let bygones be bygones and make teaching great again. Of course there are a few grey areas that Knut and TSC need to iron out, top on the list being the issue of performance contracting.

The truth is, the concept is new and as such, misunderstood and feared by many teachers.

Simply defined, a performance tool is a document outlining areas an employee should focus on over a specific period. It offers a structure that enables managers to meet with staff and discuss performance challenges and opportunities.

It also clears up any grey areas in performance and provides for employee feedback. It clarifies expectations, irons out emerging issues and motivates employees.

But one challenge that must be addressed before any performance tool can work effectively in the teaching profession is the perennial deficit of tutors.

Knut is right to insist that TSC should hire more teachers to boost performance. Evaluating the performance of schools whose teacher-student ratio is low is like evaluating the performance of a driver who works day and night without a break.

Then there is the issue of pending promotions. More than 50,000 tutors are still awaiting promotion.

TSC now argues that higher academic qualifications are no assurance for promotion, much to the chagrin of thousands of teachers who invested millions of shillings on upgrading their academic qualifications.

 

How then do you expect them to understand why a performance tool will not include taking stock of their academic qualifications?

The other headache is twin medical schemes. Teachers now contribute between Sh900 and Sh1,700, up from from a flat rate of Sh350 under the National Hospital Insurance Fund. Let tutors have one medical scheme.

On discipline, a move to have boards of management interdict errant secondary school teachers should be revisited and streamlined to avert cases of personal vendetta.

We look forward to TSC’s commitment to implementing the new CBA.

 

Faith Onuonga, Kisii

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