Q & A with Knut secretary-general Wilson Sossion

Sunday December 01 2019

Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary-General Wilson Sossion addressing journalists about the teachers' pay rise, in Nairobi on August 5, 2019. He says that the union is looking forward to working harmoniously with the TSC. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


1. Recently, there was outcry over use of xylene and other dangerous chemicals in KCSE chemistry practical examination. The Ministry of Education has, however, defended itself on the choice they made. Why are there no risk allowances for science teachers to cover such potentially fatal risks? Nathan Muthamia, Chuka, Tharaka Nithi

Risk allowance is a major component of the compensation package in the public service, of which teachers also deserve to be awarded.

However, it should be noted that Kenyan teachers, for the first time in history, are benefiting from a negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), whereby there are six allowances, namely commuter, readers/facilitation/aid, leave, house, hardship and medical.

The risk allowance had been negotiated before, but was not included in the 2017/2021 CBA.

The 2021/2025 CBA negotiation is scheduled to commence in January 2020, where we expect risk allowance will be included in the agreement.

2. It is public knowledge that you seriously questioned the rolling out of Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC), which has since been advanced by the ministry. What is your current position on CBC? Komen Moris, Eldoret


The position I took was not a personal one but of the union, informed by an empirical data and study commissioned by Knut.

It was done by experts, including renowned university professors and curriculum developers.

Our position on the way CBC has been rolled out has been misconstrued to mean we are opposed to President Uhuru Kenyatta's government development programmes.

The truth is that we want the government to get things right on matters education as it has a direct bearing on the economy.

It is important not only for the education stakeholders and parents, but also the Ministry of Education to understand that when it comes to curriculum development and implementation, we should not put the cart before the horse.

Being a document affecting quality of education in our learning, it must be subjected to a public participation process and a policy developed to guide it, with Parliament playing a crucial legislative role in it.

3. People are moving to performance-based compensation, but teaching is one of the few professions where everyone is paid the same and few are fired. What are you doing to ensure that the profession is not affected by poor performance? Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi

Since July 1, 2017, when the CBA was signed, the Teachers Service Commission has been guided by pay guidelines determined by Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) pursuant to the provisions of Article 41, 237, and 230(4) of the Constitution.

Teachers' pay perks are, therefore, dished out according to bandings and grades in the salary structures developed by SRC.

It is stated in the CBA that salary structures shall remain in force and bind all parties until a new CBA is negotiated.

4. Knut officials have been fighting each other at the expense of teachers. What are you doing to ensure that union officials put aside their differences and serve members? Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi

Knut officials are not divided as perceived by some people.

What happened is that a section of the political class, and some busy bodies, attempted, in vain, to sow seeds of discord in Knut.

There were artificial differences but we have since resolved them, and the union is strong, intact and sound.

5. In the civil case No. 65 of 2006 related to teachers’ salary increment of 1997, it was ruled on October 10, 2008 that all teachers who were in service as at July 1, 1997 were covered in pay rise vide TSC Circular no 13/79. Is your office aware that a team of teachers who transferred their services to Public Service Commission in 1999 have been denied the right to the increment? Jeremiah Munyi Limung'i, Meru

True, all teachers who were in service as at July 1, 1997 were covered in the pay rise vide TSC Circular No. 13/79.

However, teachers who transferred their services to Public Service Commission in 1999 have yet to notify Knut that they were denied the right to the increment.

It is also important to note that this cadre of public officers are no longer members of Knut, but affiliates of Union of Kenya Civil Servants, which can successfully push their case with Teachers Service Commission (TSC). However, Knut will be willing to assist if called upon.

6. You were recently deregistered as a teacher by TSC, which by an extension meant you could not lead Knut. According to me, the reasons given were genuine since as an ODM nominated MP, you can no longer be impartial, transparent and fair when advocating for the issues of all teachers and students in Kenya. Dan Murugu, Nakuru

This issue is pending in a court of law. I do not want to prejudice a matter that is before the court by commenting.

However, it should come to your knowledge that the Employment and Labour Relations Court on November 25 prevailed on TSC to withdraw the purported deregistration. I am a registered and bona fide teacher. Period!

7. You are in office on the strength of many court orders. This only serves your personal interests and not those of teachers you purport to represent. Why do you want to extend your stay at Knut when members have lost faith in your leadership? Dan Murugu, Nakuru

I am not in office on the strength of court orders. I am serving as the secretary-general of Knut because I was democratically and soundly elected by teachers.

The court orders you are talking about stem from court rulings and judgments whereby the respondents or petitioners disobeyed provisions in the Constitution, Employment and Labour Relations Act (2007), TSC Act (2012), Statutory Instruments Act (2013), 2017/2021 CBA or International Labour Organisation Convention 95.

Article 159 (a), (d) and (e) of the Constitution states that: “Justice shall be done to all, irrespective of status. Justice shall be administered without undue regard to procedural technicalities, and the purpose and principles of the Constitution shall be protected and promoted.”

8. In April, through a circular you signed, you led teachers to the gallows by instructing them to boycott CBC trainings. Today, 245 teachers have been interdicted and 42 summarily dismissed. You have done nothing about it. What is Knut going to do about these teachers? John King'ori, Nyeri teacher

This matter is still pending before the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Research where I also sit as a member.

I would not like to contravene the National Assembly Standing Orders by commenting on the same.

However, I would wish to categorically state that the Departmental Committee on Education and Research is addressing the matter.

9. Graduate teachers are paid Sh15,000 a month by TSC as interns whereas the Public Service Commission pays Sh25,000. Why are you silent on this? Paul Mburu, Gatundu

The Recognition Agreement we signed with TSC on May 15, 1968 gives Knut the authority to represent unionisable employees under the employment of TSC.

Note, the interns are neither employees of the commission nor members of Knut. Legally, our hands are tied to represent them.

However, through relevant organs, Knut is doing everything possible to ensure that this cadre of teachers are employed on permanent and pensionable terms.

10. There is one issue affecting teachers and both Knut and Kuppet fear addressing it. AON insurance company offers very poor services, or none at all. What are you quiet? Waweru Gachari, Kirinyaga

You are quite in order. Aon/TSC Medical Scheme for a while has been facing teething problems that indeed require urgent attention.

Our members are having a rough time whenever they visit health facilities. They are subjected to poor services. In some areas, there are no services at all.

We have requested TSC to convene a tripartite consultative meeting with Minet (Aon) to address this issue once and for all.

11. Your tenure at Knut has been politicised as you dabble in politics. How do you react to this because it seems it is not good for the union? Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi

I ascended to the position of secretary-general when Knut was transforming from a traditional trade movement to a teachers' professional body with added duties and responsibilities.

Today, Knut's mandate is expanded and goes beyond advocating for bread-and-butter issues.

The union also represents and champions professional interests of teachers, and the quality of education that learners get in public schools.

More so, Knut is directly involved in curriculum development and delivery, selection and use of quality teaching tools, development of educational infrastructure, and education reforms in general.

In fact, this is the reason why you find Knut sometimes clashing with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

12. TSC is illegally not promoting diploma teachers to job group L, which is their common cadre according to the Scheme of Service in the Code of Regulation for teachers. The recent court ruling nullified the career progression policy introduced by the teachers' employer. Unfortunately, TSC is still using it to deny diploma teachers their due promotion. What is Knut doing about this injustice? Wairimu Margaret, Kikuyu

The union is fully aware that TSC has denied diploma teachers their due promotion to Job Group "L".

Knut has successfully pushed this case with the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Research where TSC has been summoned to appear before the committee. The matter is being dealt with.

13. Why do you find it so difficult to quit Knut? Mungai Joe Ngige, Thika

There are no compelling reasons to warrant my resignation as Knut secretary-general.

As I stated before, there are no squabbles in the union. What you witnessed in the better part of this year was instigation by busybodies and selfish politicians who wanted to convert the union into a 2022 campaign platform. Knut is intact.

14. How do you intend to win teachers back to Knut now that most of them have quit the union? Janet Nzisa, Machakos

Teachers have not lost trust, neither in me nor in Knut leadership.

TSC interfered and mutilated the Knut membership register after rolling out a campaign asking teachers to leave Knut for them to benefit from the CBA.

TSC also failed to deduct union dues for July and August.

15. Your fights with TSC CEO Nancy Macharia have reached a level that is now personal. Do you think TSC under the current CEO could be targeting you for your stand on CBC and teacher remuneration? Margaret Wamwai, Murang’a

This is quite a good question, but I would advise you direct it to Nancy.

I respect her as TSC secretary/chief executive, and I am looking forward to working harmoniously with her in negotiating the terms and conditions of service for teachers.

16. Teachers have known you as a fighter but your continued presence as Knut has, however, rattled certain people and it is the teachers who are feeling the pain. Isn't it time you gave way to a less antagonistic leadership? Shadrack Mwangi, Ruiru

It is not a question of being antagonistic or rattling certain individuals.

The business here is to represent and champion the interests and aspirations of teachers within the existing labour laws, and international conventions, treaties and protocols.

17. What is the way forward regarding the member contributions that have not been remitted to Knut by TSC? Will you sue the TSC for withholding the funds? Githuku Mungai, Nairobi

This matter, just like the rest of our grievances and concerns, are with the Departmental Committee on Education and Research, whereby the committee has summoned TSC leadership to explain why it is defying the court which pronounced itself on the matter, directing that union dues should be remitted to Knut immediately.