KNUT wants meet over intern tutor crisis

Wednesday, June 12th, 2024 02:07 | By
Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) officials led by their secretary General Collins Oyuu during a past press briefing at the Union Headquarters in Nairobi. PHOTO/Print
Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) officials led by their secretary General Collins Oyuu during a past press briefing at the Union Headquarters in Nairobi. PHOTO/Print

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) now want the tutors’ employer to convene an urgent crisis meeting over the sacked interns as reports emerged that at least 10,000 of the tutors risk being removed from the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) register.

Should TSC proceed to deregister the more than 10,000 Junior Secondary School (JSS) intern teachers, it means that they lose their teaching certificates and would never be allowed to practice the profession unless under some local arrangements.

Established under Article 237 of the Constitution, TSC has the sole mandate of registering all trained teachers in the country, some of whom it recruits and employs to teach in public schools. Under the law, one is only allowed to practice the teaching profession if she or he is registered by TSC.

The TSC Act (2012) Section 23 (2) prohibits any person from engaging in teaching service unless one is registered as a teacher.

Under TSC Act (2012), Regulation 30, the Commission is allowed to revoke the individuals’ certificates and remove their names from the register after being found to have obtained registration through fraudulent means; convicted of a sexual offence or an offence against a pupil or a student, involved in gross misconduct; convicted of a criminal offence which in the opinion of the Commission renders the person unfit to be a teacher.

Termination letters

On Monday, the intern teachers who have been strike since the reopening of schools for the second term in early May started receiving termination letters for allegedly participating in an illegal strike.

TSC cited professional misconduct as grounds for the termination of services of the intern teachers, only two days after they had called off the month long strike in anticipation of being absorbed on permanent and pensionable terms after the reading of tomorrow’s budget speech.

According to one of the JSS intern teachers’ interim leaders John Melvin, their colleagues were still receiving termination letters by yesterday.

“We have already contacted our lawyer who is finalising plans to move to court. But as of today, we have not heard of any development,” Melvin said.

Yesterday, KNUT General Secretary Collins Oyuu while imploring on TSC to reconsider the action already made, said most of the affected teachers are youthful in their mid and late twenties and are going to be adversely affected throughout their lifetime.

“The action is punitive because as it stands, TSC has technically deregistered as teachers and cannot be allowed to practice the profession elsewhere. They cannot even seek greener pastures as teachers outside the country,” Oyuu told the People Daily.

Seeking dialogue

As such, Oyuu said, the giant teachers’ union has already written to TSC is seeking for dialogue in a bid to find common ground on the way forward.

Some of the nearly 60,000 intern teachers had in early May boycotted teaching when schools reopened for second term demanding enhanced pay and conversion of their intern contracts to permanent and pensionable.

“The commission has noted that you failed and/or ignored to provide any reasons for your absence as required vide the aforementioned letter,” a letter dated June 6 and signed by a Ms E Mitei addressed to one of the teachers states.

“In view of the above, the Commission has decided to terminate your internship engagement with effect from June 6, on the grounds that you engaged in acts of professional misconduct in that you deserted duty with effect from May 13, 2024 to date while engaged as an intern teacher,” the letter observes.

In an earlier letter dated May 11, TSC had warned the teachers to show cause why they should not be sacked for engaging themselves in misconduct by failing to report on duty since the schools reopened.

“It is stated with a lot of concern that you breached the provisions of the TSC Act 2012 Third Schedule Clause (b) in that you engaged in professional misconduct by being absent from duty on diverse dates between May 13, 2024 to date, ” the earlier letter signed by Jackson K. Mutai had stated. The intern teachers were supposed to respond to the show cause letters within 14 days failure to which the contemplated action would be taken without any further reminder.

TSC and the JSS intern teachers have been in a standoff after a labour court ruling in April that deemed the internship programme as illegal because of unequal pay for equal work. However, a stay order allowed the TSC to continue employing interns until August 1.

Programme halted

The Labour Relations Court in April ruled that the teacher internship programme was illegal but halted any action until August 1. This means TSC is free to continue engaging the interns until August 1. But TSC vowed that it would only negotiate with the interns should they lose the appeal to overturn the illegality ruling.

Oyuu said his union would do everything possible under its ambit to try and reverse the action.

“We want TSC to convene a meeting bringing together all stakeholders to discuss the fate of this youngsters as the action would negatively impact on their career,” Oyuu said.

The trade unionist also implored on both the Ministry of Education and TSC to continue with the retooling of JSS teachers across the country to avoid complaints of teachers being allocated to teach subjects they are not well versed in.

“Very little has been going on in class 7 and 8 after a number of employed teachers found themselves being allocated subjects that they had not studied. The government needs to make the retooling exercise a continuous one in order to adequately prepare the teachers in the subjects they have been allocated,” Oyuu. The exercise that began when schools closed for the April holidays ended last Thursday.

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