Teachers unions have differed sharply on whether or not to go on strike from September 1 to protest against massive transfers and performance appraisals.
While the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) has already ordered its members not to report to work at the end of the August holidays, its rival the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) is opposed to the plans and has instead called for dialogue over the contentious issues.
On Tuesday, Kuppet’s top decision making organ- the 10-member national executive board — resolved to engage the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and rejected attempts to disrupt school activities during the national examinations term.
The union said it would write to the commission to renegotiate some components of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (2017-2021), which it said were unfair to teachers.
“The CBA is not cast in stone, it is negotiable and can be renegotiated. We have identified the issues such as teacher appraisal, delocalisation, teachers professional development programme, promotion, harmonisation of house allowance in the whole the country among others. We are writing to TSC to negotiate and that does not require a strike, you only negotiate,” said Kuppet chairman Omboko Milemba.
He was optimistic they would reach an understanding, adding: “We have set up a committee to work on the issues and come up with our own proposals,” he added, insisting that Knut and Kuppet have different structures and ideologies.
He asked teachers to ignore calls by Knut to boycott work, saying the issues were easy to resolve without resorting to industrial action.
“Teachers do not need to go on strike at this time. There are no reasons. As Kuppet we believe in engaging our employers and avoid unnecessary strikes which will interfere with learning in schools,” said Mr Milemba.
On the other hand, Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion says a strike is the only way to push the TSC to drop the performance appraisals and the delocalisation policy which has seen 1,065 principals transferred since December 2017. The union has also blamed school unrest on transfers, claim which the TSC and the Kenya secondary school heads association have rejected.
Meanwhile, the TSC has invited Knut for a meeting to discuss the promotion of teachers who have attained higher academic qualifications and the implementation of the CBA.
TSC chief executive Nancy Macharia says in her July 30 invitation letter that the meeting will take place on August 21 at the commission’s headquarters in Nairobi.
Mrs Macharia in a report to National Assembly’s Education Committee last week defended the transfers, saying it was within the commission's mandate.
“The recent transfers were informed by the recommendations of the job evaluation report. The transfers were accompanied by substantive appointments informed by individual grades of each teacher.
The teachers having been substantively appointed cannot be demoted and be deployed back as classroom teachers.
In our view, the said transfers were made in public interest as well as in the best interest of individual teachers,” she told MPs.
The official added that the policy's overall objective is to deter over localisation of the teaching profession so as to promote coexistence and cohesion among different communities.
She also defended performance appraisals and performance contracting for administrators saying it was standard practice globally.
Mrs Macharia said Knut has openly expressed opposition to the teacher appraisal programme even after supporting and approving the provision in the CBA, which was subsequently registered at the Employment and Labour relations office in November last year.
But Mr Sossion said the union was only opposed to the tools being used in the appraisal system.