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Kenya: Teachers threaten strike over mass transfer of school heads

Teachers’ unions on Sunday told 557 school principals and their deputies who have been transferred to new stations in January to ignore the changes, casting a dark cloud over the reopening of schools early next week.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) warned that they would call for a national teachers’ strike if the Teachers Service Commission, which has announced the changes, does not shelve them pending ‘proper consultations’.

Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion said they had not reached an agreement with the TSC on how the transfers should be effected and wondered why the commission was rushing the changes.

“The transfers must be discussed and agreed upon. We had started the talks with TSC but had not concluded them.

“We are making it clear to TSC that if it does not revoke the transfers we will not open schools in January,” Mr Sossion said.

“If they do not want to talk to us, we will use the language that they understand best, which is a national strike.

“Transfers will not improve results in national examinations and delocalisation is not premised on any sound education achievement strategy.”

Mr Sossion said teachers could only be transferred after careful deliberations with their unions and that the changes were not part of the collective bargaining agreement signed in October last year.

Kuppet deputy Secretary General Moses Nthurima said the transfers had not been done procedurally.

“These transfers lack a human face. As much as the TSC is responsible for employment and placement, such actions must be done in a way that does not hurt families,” he said and demanded that the union be involved in the transfer process.

“We need to be involved in this exercise. The exercise was done without any consultation and we will not accept it,” he said.

According to TSC chief executive officer Nancy Macharia, those transferred — most of whom have overstayed in one centre for more than nine years— are supposed to report to their new stations next week on Monday.

Those affected include head teachers in 31 national schools, who have been sent to other counties.

Some of the schools affected are Alliance Girls, Limuru Girls, Kakamega High, Chavakali, Sironga Girls, Cardinal Otunga Boys, Nyambaria, Machakos Boys, Kangaru, among others.

On Wednesday, during the release of this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations, Mrs Macharia said the transfers were in line with the provisions of the code of regulations for teachers and collective bargaining agreements signed between TSC and the teachers’ unions.

She cited Regulation 70(8) of the code of regulation for teachers, which states that “In undertaking deployment, the Commission shall endeavour to delocalize the administration of public institutions.

“The code of regulations and code of conduct and ethics for teachers shall form an integral part of this Agreement (CBA).

Some 156 school heads in extra-county boys and girls’ schools have been moved, while eight principals have been posted to national schools, which have been operating without substantive heads.

In county schools, 134 vacant positions have been filled, while 19 heads of technical institutions have been moved.

On Wednesday, Mrs Macharia said a special job group has been created for schools heads allowing them to enjoy higher allowances.

Such teachers cannot be demoted even if they underperform or if they decide not to take up their positions.

The Nation has learnt that the positions are by appointment, meaning that the teachers cannot opt to return to the classroom if they decide to pass up the promotions but will instead be forced to quit.

In future, all headship positions in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions that fall vacant will be filled in line with the new requirements on delocalisation.

“We are determined to assist the government in enhancing national cohesion and bolstering professionalism and commitment in the teaching profession as well as breath freshness within schools,” Mrs Macharia said.

In Kisii, education stakeholders expressed concerns that the massive sudden transfer of principals in the region could cause psychological torture to the affected individuals.

County Education Board chairman Henry Onderi said the transfers could create emotional imbalance on the principals considering that they have families and some have been moved away from them.

“I am worried the transfers could lead to family disintegration due to the haste in which they have been done.

“They should be systematic and the affected parties should have been given enough time to prepare,” he said.

But Mr Manson Nyamweya, an economist and former MP, supported the transfers, saying some school heads working near their home areas had abdicated their responsibilities, choosing to concentrate on their personal businesses.

“People should work hard so that the nation can grow. This will be possible through fixing the education system,” he said.

But Kisii County Kuppet Executive Secretary Albert Omari Otungi said all stakeholders should be involved in the changes.

“We have seen parents and students protesting against new principals. All this is because of lack of consultation and preparedness,” he said.

He said rejection of a principal in a new school by stakeholders is the worst form of torture a principal can be exposed to.

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