The Teachers Service Commission and the Kenya National Union of Teachers have consistently clashed over a number of issues which, cumulatively, have adversely affected teaching and learning.
For years, the main contest has been over salaries, leading to several teachers’ strikes that ended up creating a bad working relationship between the union and the employer. While the two are not expected to fraternise, they should co-exist in harmony.
In recent times, the battles have taken a different dimension and have had to be resolved in the courts, which is an uncomfortable eventuality that ought to be avoided at all times.
This week, the Labour Court delivered a major ruling on the dispute between the union and the employer over three things; promotions, transfers and new performance appraisal system.
Instructively, the ruling could also have other unintended consequences, including affecting an existing Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The court directed that mass transfers be shelved, especially for head teachers serving as union officials. Two, TSC has been urged to effect promotions based on the existing code of regulations. Three, the court shelved the controversial performance appraisal system.
Broadly, these are administrative issues that should not to be litigated upon. Rather, they should be agreed upon and executed without causing brouhaha. However, that cannot be because of the mistrust and poisoned working environment.
Transfer is an administrative task that ought not to create antagonism. But the way it has been effected smacks of malice.
Teachers, like other civil servants, commit to working in any part of the country and in that respect, should be redeployed from one region to another after serving for given number of years. Nonetheless, the way TSC has done that in the past one year under delocalisation has been quite disruptive and poorly communicated.
Promotion of teachers has equally been thorny, especially with the new criteria that prioritised outputs of the new performance appraisal system to the traditional one based on qualifications and years of service. The new performance appraisal system has been disputed by Knut, which argues that it effectively pulled teachers away from their core business.
The court ruling should help bring clarity in execution of these administrative tasks. We note though that TSC is not convinced and is contemplating appealing, which is perfectly legitimate.
We advocate dialogue between TSC and the unions to avert acrimony that only serves to obstruct teaching and learning in schools.