The directive by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) to its members to remit their contributions directly to it is a desperate last-ditch effort to stay afloat.
While it may sound trite and devoid of news value, the circumstances in which the directive was issued points to a grave problem across the education sector and the future of trade unionism in the country.
The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) stopped deducting the two per cent contribution of basic pay from each individual member of the union last July following a court ruling that halted the implementation of the 2016-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) following a challenge by Knut.
For its troubles, the union has had to do without the Sh143 million it receives monthly from its members, which means that it cannot run its 110 regional offices nor pay its 2,700 employees.
The situation has put the 63-year-old union in financial dire straits.
In a nutshell, the union, which has diligently and aggressively fought for higher pay and better working conditions for teachers for the past six decades, is on the verge of collapse.
Numerous active court cases between the union and the employer are at various stages of litigation at the taxpayers’ expense and great cost to teachers and, by extension, the learners.
While it is not expected that the TSC and Knut should live together in perfect bliss and harmony, they should, at the very least, have the wisdom, patience and humility to sit, debate and agree on sticky issues without going to court for protracted and often poisoned legal battles.
They ought to enjoy a symbiotic relationship underpinned by the drive to improve teaching and learning in the country.
The TSC is the employer of teachers and it must be driven by the singular objective of making their jobs easier, enjoyable and rewarding.
It has to maintain constant consultations with them through their unions rather than appear as a unilateral prima donna only eager to pulverise teachers to eternal submission.
Similarly, Knut has to realise that it exists to clinch the best deal for the teachers in terms of pay and working conditions rather than act as a certified opposition organ out to hog publicity for the sake of it.
It must be willing to concede on issues that, in the long term, can only be beneficial to teachers and learners.
It must go beyond bread and butter issues and get involved in the professional development of teachers.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha could help bring the two parties to the table for a reasoned and open debate on how to work amicably.
Stronger unions are good for teachers and the country. Courts should be the last resort in every dispute.