In a move that could send the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) back to the drawing board over its proposed 2024 Amendment Bill on TSC Act, several unions have pointed out glaring gaps in the draft document that was tabled before them during a stakeholder engagement forum yesterday.
The amendments seek to streamline the teaching profession by factoring emerging issues that are not addressed in the 12-year old TSC Act.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (Kuppet) hit out at their employer for side-lining teachers in its critical operations calling for sector-wide stakeholder engagement towards drafting reforms that will take into account new issues like the CBC curriculum and the report of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform.
“You do not want to go the real service that created you. You are too bossy and yet we are the one who created you.
“We want a joint initiative bringing together all relevant government agencies including the Ministry of Education, the KNEC, the KICD, teachers’ unions, teachers’ professional associations, representatives of parents, the private sector and civil society to identify priority areas for legal reforms,” Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori said.
Misori accused TSC of attempting to accumulate more power through the document at the expense of addressing the welfare of the teachers and systematic challenges facing the teaching profession.
“The reforms should not give more power to the Commission. The TSC is a constitutional commission with a wide mandate. New changes to its powers should help fix gaps that impede the TSC’s effectiveness and the welfare of teachers.
“These gaps include administrative bottlenecks on promotions, bureaucracy on disciplinary process, and conflict of interest between TSC’s role as employer and regulator,” the SG explained noting that teachers demand a seamless from the commission.
On the issue of salaries that has occasionally created grandstanding between teachers and the commission, KUPPET opposed the amendments saying it gives TSC undue influence to the role of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission at the expense of existing collective bargaining, thereby weakening Article 41 of the Constitution which provides for workers’ right to fair labour practices, fair remuneration and to form, join and to take part in the activities and programmes of trade unions.
According to KUPPET, teachers’ unions are unanimously pushing for amending of Article 237 of the constitution so that an independent professional regulator can be established to create the frameworks for continuous professional development, ethical standards and remedies for emerging challenges including mental health issues and rehab services while TSC sticks to its fundamental role of employing teachers.
“Together with our partners including the Deans of the Schools of Education, Kessha (Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association) and Kepsha (Kenya Primary School Head Teachers Association), Kuppet has been advocating for an independent assessment of teachers done by their peers – allowing the Commission to play its role as an employer,” SG Misori hinted.
Additionally the union proposed that the draft bill provides for creation of an independent appeals tribunal to look into cases of indiscipline among teachers and further offload the burden that the commission is bearing.
“The TSC commissioners have outsized power in disciplinary issues. Before an aggrieved teacher goes to the court of law, it would be proper to have an appeals tribunal to check the commissioners’ power,” Misori asserted.
Still on discipline matters Kenya Women Teachers Association, (Kewota) said the proposed amendments on the section must stipulate equal penalty proportionate to the offence committed.
“TSC should clearly define the gravity of the offence. What happens when a teacher in the course of try to contain learners slightly slaps a student on the lower body? Does that attract disciplinary action from TSC and if so what kind of penalty the commission should recommend?” posed Kewota Secretary General Benta Opande.
On their part Kessha members said the draft bill must protect the rights of teachers in the wake of public invading schools to evict teachers when their candidates register dismal grades at the national examinations.
The teacher employer is seeking to amend a total of 11 sections, third and fourth schedule of the 2012 TSC Act that address the powers of the commission, regulatory framework of the teaching profession, disciplinary actions, remuneration and performance management.