North Eastern teachers protest outside CID headquarters

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North Eastern teachers protest outside CID headquarters along Kiambu road in Nairobi following the summoning of Knut boss Wilson Sossion to appear for questioning for allegedly inciting them not to return to work over insecurity on Monday.

According to a survey on the working condition of teachers across the globe, whose findings were presented at the ongoing Education International (EI) Conference in Nairobi, 45 per cent of Government employed teachers ?want to leave the profession?.

EI Secretary General Fred Van Leeuwen revealed the damning statistics and noted that the data reflects the situation in 123 countries across the world.

He said the figures mean that of the 288,000? Kenyan teachers employed by the Government, about 129,600 would wish to quit the profession because of poor working conditions.

This explains why there has been a series of industrial action by teachers in the country in the recent past, which has seen education in public institutions grind to a stop as teachers demanded improvements in pay and working conditions.

The country has witnessed strikes by teachers more than 12 times since 1963 and according to Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi, the frequency has increased since 1997 to almost every year, with the grievances always about poor pay. ?We have been surveying teachers about their working conditions and the statistics are not commendable,? said Leeuwen. EI brings together 348 teachers unions across 170 countries. This translates to some 30 million members.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Wilson Sossion, said the statistics are a true reflection of the situation in Kenya.

Knut and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) are members of EI, as are the Universities Academic Staff Union and the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha).

Going by the findings of the survey, another 20 per cent of teachers need a second job to make ends meet. This means that 57,600 of the current Government employed teachers want a side job to increase their monthly earnings.

There have been proposals that teachers be banned from having other jobs or businesses by including a specific clause in the Teachers Service Commission ( TSC) Code of Conduct and Ethics.

The TSC code stipulates that no teacher is supposed to engage in gainful employment and further directs? them to live within their means and avoid incurring any financial liability he or she can not satisfy

At the same time, the Conference heard that 68 per cent of teachers feel their workload is too heavy. The participants were further shocked to hear from Leeuwen that ?Only 55 per cent want to continue teaching until their retirement?, and only 50 per cent said their pay is ?just enough to cover their basic needs?.

Sossion put the findings in perspective, explaining that poor pay and working conditions are the main reasons teachers are demotivated.

He also said that lack of appreciation by the Government and the public contributes to pushing teachers out of service. ?45 per cent of the TSC-employed teachers wishing to quit the profession is a disaster and unfortunate,? he said.

He said thousands of teachers get broke barely a week after receiving their salaries and that many more had to survive on a meal day after the 10th day of the pay.

?By the 15th day, they are asking for salary advances, borrowing from neighbours and begging for goods and services on credit,? said Sossion.

He said the pay disparity between teachers and civil servants is too wide, and faulted the Government?s explanation that salaries have been harmonised.

In its memorandum filed last week, TSC wants the Industrial Court to ignore unions? demand for a 150 per cent salary increase and traces how the teachers have benefited from harmonised pay between 2003 and 2012. TSC states in the document that talks to harmonise teachers? pay started immediately after the 1997-2003 agreement with Knut.

It says the negotiations culminated into an agreement signed between the Knut and TSC in 2008, and further explains the subsequent harmonisation that benefited teachers. ?It is unfortunate that some officials can doubt the plight of teachers. You only need to live with them to see their lifestyle. They deserve better pay,? said Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori.

He added: ?When we ask about increased pay, some people think we are demanding more. Just make us equal to others because we are also Kenyans.?

Sossion said Knut receives monthly reports of teachers fighting eviction from their rented houses.

?Some get their property attached after failing to settle their monthly bills. It is a painful thing to be a teacher in Kenya at this moment because some even dispose off their property to survive,? said Sossion.

He singled out the case of over 2,000 teachers based in North Eastern who have declined to return to work. ?Listening to the plight of these teachers is disheartening. The horror they underwent is so immense yet some people still trivialise their situation. With that kind of treatment, any employee would dislike their job,? said Sossion.

The EI survey says 60 per cent of teachers feel they are not consulted on measures taken by public authorities to reform education.? Leeuwen said it is time the Government listened to teachers if quality education is to be realised. ?Listening to teachers means listening to the classroom and the lecturer and it also means listening to their representatives and all levels where education policy is developed,? he said.

The conference heard that well trained teachers, quality teaching tools and conducive learning environment are necessary variables that must be dealt with in enhancing quality education.

President Uhuru Kenyatta opened the five-day conference on Wednesday and asked teachers to be patient as his Government works to better their living conditions.

By AUGUSTINE ODUOR, The Standard

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