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Teachers hard hit by ‘limping’ commission

Saturday October 25 2014

TSC Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni and chairperson Salome Gichura at the secondary school headteachers' meeting in Mombasa on June 26, 2014. Teachers hoping for a pay rise, promotion or determination of their disciplinary cases face a longer wait because the TSC is operating below capacity. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA |

TSC Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni and chairperson Salome Gichura at the secondary school headteachers' meeting in Mombasa on June 26, 2014. Teachers hoping for a pay rise, promotion or determination of their disciplinary cases face a longer wait because the TSC is operating below capacity. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

BENJAMIN MUINDI
By BENJAMIN MUINDI
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Teachers hoping for a pay rise, promotion or determination of their disciplinary cases face a longer wait because the Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC) is operating below capacity.

Even the fate of talks under way between their unions and the government remain uncertain with the TSC operating with only three commissioners who are reported to be “severely overstretched”. 

The commissioners have to interview teachers for promotion, deal with disciplinary cases and approve operations of the TSC, all as part of 37 demands placed on the commission by teachers’ unions. 

There are more than 53,000 teachers lined up for promotion after undertaking in-service training, but TSC said it can only promote 6,000 teachers at the moment.

While TSC Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni said the commission was “legally constituted” and could negotiate with teachers’ unions, a top official at the institution, who requested anonymity on the matter, said many cases of promotion, review of discipline cases, interdictions and management of payroll were strained. 

“TSC is in a limbo,” said the source, “Operations of the commission have been greatly hampered by the lack of commissioners who have to take a stand on every decision regarding the teaching profession in Kenya.”

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“We have the promotion of teachers now on hold and several disciplinary cases yet to be determined,” said the source, adding that “efficiency” at the commission was the biggest issue.” 

The three commissioners heading TSC are Cleophas Tirop, Saadia Mohammed and Dr Salome Gichura in an institution that requires a maximum of nine commissioners as stated in the Constitution. Dr Gichura is the acting chairperson.

The secondary schools heads association said the number of discipline cases awaiting determination is on the rise and asked the government to speed up appointment of the commissioners.

“We are very concerned at the delays in the appointment given the number of personnel that the TSC officers handle,” Mr John Awiti, chairman of the association, said.

CHANGE IN RULE

The TSC had been run by 24 commissioners before the enactment of the 2010 Constitution which stipulates that the maximum number of commissioners is nine.

 Mr Lengoiboni said one of the commissioners doubles as the chairperson.

Although the appointment of the commissioners to the TSC began about three years ago, it has been mired in court battles and political haggling.

The latest court case was filed in August when High Court Judge Isaac Lenaola halted the recruitment of the TSC chairman after Mr Wycliffe Nyakina challenged the process.

But a selection panel headed by former Local Government permanent secretary Karega Mutahi has interviewed 27 people and the names of the 13 successful candidates were forwarded to President Uhuru Kenyatta, in accordance with the TSC Act.

Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion said some union members had registered disciplinary cases more than 15 months ago.

“It is a big crisis that needs to be sorted out urgently now that Parliament has resumed,” Mr Sossion said.

He said all other commissions were fully staffed four years ago. “Why has it taken so long for the government to ensure that TSC is fully operational?”

At the same time, a similar fate has befallen other key institutions in the education sector following delays in appointing their officials.

They include the Kenya National Examinations Council, curriculum developers, and more recently the University of Nairobi where Prof George Magoha is to be replaced as the Vice-Chancellor. 

The key appointment of the education principal secretary in the ministry is also pending. The position was previously held by Prof George Godia. Ms Leah Rotich is acting in that position.

However, Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi said he was in no hurry to replace or confirm interim heads of the institutions “as those in acting capacity can discharge their duties effectively”.

The names of successful candidates have been sent to him.  

“People who are acting in those positions have all that it takes. They also have all powers at their disposal and no one has complained to me that he or she is unable to work because he or she is acting,” Prof Kaimenyi said.