Teachers unions on Thursday waged a war against a female teachers' lobby as the battle for billions of shillings contributed as membership fees intensified.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) took the row over membership in the Kenya Women Teachers Association (Kewota) to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) also took action, asking its members to keep of the lobby.
Knut's Secretary-General Wilson Sossion asked the EACC and the DCI to investigate officials at the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) for allegedly colluding with Kewota to recruit teachers without their knowledge.
“It has come to our notice that the TSC has illegally executed check-off deductions of Sh200 per female teacher from 58,000 teachers who did not at all authorise their deductions,” Mr Sossion said in a letter to the agencies dated June 20.
He said the union had also established that the commission auto-loaded programmes to automatically deduct the money, without the approval of the teachers and in collusion with Kewota officials.
Kuppet's acting Secretary-General Moses Nturima alleged that members were recruited and deductions made with the blessing of the TSC, which he claimed had vested interests.
“The deductions are illegal and constitute economic crimes against affected teachers on the part of the employer,” he said.
The TSC was not immediately available for comment on Knut and Kuppet's claims.
Kewota's National Treasurer Jacinta Ndegwa denied the allegations, saying the teachers joined the union of their own volition.
“Teachers are joining the women's lobby group without force. They are looking at the benefits,” said Ms Ndegwa.
The teachers are also battling for millions of shillings that non-government organisations channel to unions for the support of gender-based activities across the country.
The government appears ready to work with associations which seem non-confrontational since the officials are usually officers in the public service.
Kewota is following in the footsteps of the Kenya Women Parliamentarians association (Kewopa) and the Federation of women lawyers (Fida), which Ms Ndegwa noted champion the rights of women and are never in competition with mainstream organisations.
“Why is it that when women come together it becomes an issue? Women's needs are unique ... we want to fill gaps unions have not been able to handle,” said Ms Ndegwa.
She reported that that the association had recruited 60,000 members who will pay Sh200 monthly, translating to Sh12million per month.
Knut collects about Sh140 million monthly while Kuppet collects Sh40 million, alongside agency fees from teachers who do not belong to any union.
According to Kewota Chief Executive Officer Benta Opande, the association will address issues such as investment opportunities, projects, mentorship, sponsorship, training and advocacy.
She said Kewota’s mission is "to create an institutionalised, vibrant and democratic welfare society capable of empowering women teachers and the girl child socially or economically, while enhancing better living standards for them by providing opportunities for career development".
The latest data from Knut indicates that it has 187,424 members and 126,493 non-members who either belong to Kuppet or are not in any union.
The total number of teachers in the country is 313,917.
Knut has since threatened to kick out its officials who have positions in the new lobby, among them Ms Ndegwa, who is Knut's second women's representative.
Mr Sossion said the union will not entertain union officials and officers out to "undermine Knut from within and to blackmail the trade union movement".
He noted that a meeting of the union's National Executive Council resolved not to entertain "wayward members who collaborate with enemies of the union, clandestinely forming associations or unions to rival Knut".
“We wish to make it crystal clear that any person who holds views and aspirations contrary to the union’s vision, mission and constitution should quit Knut forthwith."