The fight to control of 364,000 teachers played out on Wednesday after Ministry of Education snubbed a meeting called by the teachers employer to review the Teachers Service (TSC) Act.
No officer represented the parent ministry led by Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu, signaling an escalation of turf wars between Jogoo House and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).
Some of the stakeholders scoffed at the ministry for failing to attend the crucial stakeholders meeting to discuss proposed amendment of the law governing the teaching profession.
This laid bare the deepening rift between the ministry, responsible for setting education policy, and the TSC, tasked with managing teachers.
The ministry skipped the meeting held at Kenya School of Government, with no explanation or apology offered.
Janet Ouko, representing the Tunza Mtoto Coalition, termed the ministry’s absence “shameful,” highlighting the lack of collaboration and potential negative impact on the education sector.
‘I must say it is shameful that their is no representative from the Ministry of Education here as we discuss such a crucial document. TSC is the child to the ministry and they ought to be here,’ Muthoni said.
This simmering tension has boiled over in recent months, fueled by proposals to amend the TSC Act 2012, potentially expanding the commission’s powers.
The proposed changes, outlined in the TSC Amendment Bill 2024, include granting the TSC regulatory authority over teachers and control over their continuous professional development (CPD).
While some stakeholders see this as a positive step towards professionalizing the teaching force, others fear it concentrates too much power in TSC.
The ministry joined the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) that boycotted the meeting, terming the proposals “punitive” and the consultation period “short notice.”
However, the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) attended the meeting.
Kuppet National Chairman Omboko Milemba argued that the TSC, already empowered since 2012 when the outgoing Act came to force, should focus on improving service delivery instead of seeking additional power.
Milemba said from their review, the proposals border an attempt by the employer to consolidate more powers.
Kuppet’s reservations, Milemba said, include, the contentious proposal to give the TSC regulatory powers over teachers and control over CPD.
He argued that there is need for separation of powers so that the employer concentrates with staffing and teacher’s welfare as another entity handles regulatory mandate.
Milemba urged TSC to allow for a wholesome stakeholder engagement in the formulation of the regulator role.
He also called for rethinking of continuous training of teachers.
On the other hand, Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori took note of the silence on union involvement in salary negotiation.
He said that the proposal diregards unions right entrenched in the Constitution to negotiate on behalf of their members.
The TSC proposal wants the employer to have the powers to determine teachers salaries in accordance with article 237 of the Constitution that gives Salaries and Remuneration Commission advisory role on civil servants.
“Article 41 of the Constitution is where we derive our powers but TSC has only mentioned article 237 of the Constitution in their proposal, so what is the role of Collective Bargaining Agreements?” Misori posed.
He questioned the documents silence on who will bear the cost of the CPD development programmes.
TSC had proposed that the programmes be under their purview which is also in contradiction of the presidential working party on education reforms.
The working party in its recommendation recommended for establishment of the Kenya School of Teacher and Education Management (KeSTEM) which will coordinate professional training to teachers; the entity would be under the Ministry of Education.
“Who is going to finance the professional development courses, we need to know that because this has been a contentious issue since it was adopted,” Misori said.
Teacher disciplinary process took center stage in the Wednesday meeting, with various stakeholders fingering TSC’s processes.
Misori said that top among the contentious proposals is the plan for TSC
Kenya Union of Special Needs Education Teachers (KUSNET) Secretary General James Torome however supported the proposals but called on TSC to include special needs institutions in the list of basic education.
On the other hand, school heads through their representatives termed the document timely as they pulled support.
Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association acting Chairman Willie Kuria, opposed plans to have the continuous development of teachers handled by another entity.
“If the training is not handled by the employer it will be handled by a third party and this could come with a lot of gaps,” Kuria said.
Kenya Primary School Heads Association National Chairman Johnson Nzioka called for provision of a reward system for exemplary teachers in the Act.
“We can see a long list of offenses that teachers if they commit would find themselves in trouble, why can’t we have the same for the opposite. Develop a reward system for high performers,” Nzioka said.
Kenya Women Teachers Association Secretary General, Benter Opande called on the commission to consider review of teaching standards warning that failure to involve stakeholders could lead to bias.
She further asked the TSC to reconsider the disciplinary proposals in the amendment Bill and allow the union representatives to sit with a teacher facing the disciplinary action.
“We are of the opinion that some of the punishments on the offenses listed are too harsh, we propose for a review on punishment and fines on offenses under the Act,” he said.