How JSS intern teachers are living troubled lives

Tuesday, May 21st, 2024 03:30 | By
Junior Secondary School intern teachers take to the streets in Mombasa yesterday to protest ‘mistreatment’ by the government. PHOTO/Reuben Mwambingu.
Junior Secondary School intern teachers take to the streets in Mombasa yesterday to protest ‘mistreatment’ by the government. PHOTO/Reuben Mwambingu.

Esther Atieno, a Junior Secondary School (JSS) teacher in Mombasa, lives from hand to mouth on a monthly salary of Sh17,000. As a single mother, she explains that teaching has always been her dream. When the JSS internship opportunity arose, she seized it without hesitation.

 “I didn’t have a job and knew I couldn’t rely on Board of Management positions. So, I took the JSS internship, hoping for a better future. However, it’s been a real struggle. Balancing Sh17,000 between rent, food, and my child’s needs is a difficult task. I often have to skip lunch because I can’t afford to eat every day,” Atieno explains.

 Every morning, after getting her child ready for school, she leaves her home in Vijiweni, Likoni, paying Sh50 for a matatu to the Likoni Ferry Channel. After crossing the ferry, she pays another Sh40 to Sabasaba and then walks to RG Ngala Primary School, where a mountain of homework awaits her.

 “I am trained to teach business studies and geography, but now I teach home science, CRE, social studies, and pre-technical studies. I only have basics in business studies and some social studies. I’m forced to teach history, a subject I dropped in Form Two,” she says, detailing her professional challenges.

 In the evening, exhausted, Atieno treks home to meet her son, and together they prepare for another day. Despite the hardships, she insists teaching remains her passion. She joined the profession after graduation, hopeful for better days, despite hearing complaints from senior colleagues.

 “When I joined as a junior intern, I heard senior interns complaining, but I needed a job. Now, I realise that working under the same conditions as permanent and pensionable colleagues, who earn three times my salary, is demoralising. The Sh17,000 I get is barely enough, especially as a young mother. I have to pay rent, transport, school fees for my child, and support my parents and siblings. I’m the firstborn,” she says, “I can’t even afford proper clothing.”

 Out of her Sh17,000 salary, Sh10,000 goes to rent, leaving her to stretch the remaining Sh7,000 for other needs.

Poor working conditions

Atieno’s plight is shared by others like Felix Marembo, who supplements his income by working in cafeterias and construction sites on weekends. A Bachelor of Education (English Literature) graduate from Maasai Mara University, Marembo hoped for a better life with a stable job.

 “Junior secondary school isn’t bad, but the infrastructure and working conditions are poor. I work in construction because I live in a popular slum in Mombasa. My income doesn’t allow me to afford better housing,” he says. “Despite our qualifications, we struggle to make ends meet. My house has been locked twice by the landlord, yet I’m expected to be a creative teacher facilitating competence-based learning.”

These teachers were among those who protested in Mombasa on Monday, urging the government to improve the working environment for intern teachers.

They marched along Moi Avenue in Mombasa CBD, chanting slogans and waving placards calling for the “liberation of teachers.”

The over 21,000 Junior Secondary school teachers, who are serving in more than 23,000 public schools, have already issued a strike notice to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).

They say they will down their tools if the government does not meet their demands by Sunday. The demands include offering them permanent and pensionable employment. Recently, President William Ruto assured the country that learning will go on as his government plans to employ Junior Secondary School (JSS) interns once they serve for two years.

In a letter addressed to TSC chief executive officer Nancy Macharia, the tutors noted that they are not ready to be taken in circles.

The teachers’ interim spokesperson Boniface Omari says they are not looking back.

‘‘Following the Court Orders, we are now releasing the calendar of events that will be followed and adhered to by all Junior Secondary school teachers,’’ Omari said, cautioning parents that no learning will take place in schools.

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