Non-local teachers working in Mandera County have narrated harrowing experiences in the hands students, headteachers and education administrators.
Speaking to National Assembly’s Education Committee, the teachers narrated the sufferings they have been going through, from sexual harassment, discrimination on the basis of sex and religion, unfair labour practices, insecurity and denial to access to justice.
The teachers asked the committee chaired by Tinderet MP Julius Melly to intervene and have them transferred to safer areas.
In a petition to the committee through Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), the 19 teachers who said they were representing their colleagues totalling 180, accused local Teachers Service Commission officials of being too hostile to them.
A female teacher narrated to the committee how she is paying the price of failing to give in to sexual advances from her headteacher.
“He wanted to have sex with me but I declined and when he discovered that I was pregnant, he became very hostile and even declined to allow me to go for maternity leave.
“I had to be airlifted to Nairobi and later to Kisumu for treatment after my condition worsened,” narrated the teacher who broke down in tears.
The teacher said she is serving her interdiction and will appear before the TSC disciplinary committee on March 28 to defend herself on the allegation of going on leave without permission.
MPs Eva Obara (Kabondo Kasipul), Jerusha Momanyi (Nyamira), Geoffrey Odanga (Matayos) and Mr Melly said sexual harassment should not be tolerated and asked the TSC to take appropriate action on those responsible.
They also asked MPs from north eastern to condemn attacks on teachers and stop turning a blind eye on the concerns raised by the teachers in order to allow learning to resume in the region.
In their petition, the teachers said they suffer discrimination on the basis of race, sex and religion beliefs.
“Based on our Christian religion, we are referred to in undignified (and) derogatory terms such as athome (slaves), ngurare (nywele ngumu), mathmathou (black satan), sheitan (devil) and kafirs(pagans).
“We cannot worship or read [the Bible] as sometimes [our copies] are torn into pieces and replaced with [the] Quran,” said the teachers in their petition.
“Sharia law and the Maslaha system, which are religious and culture-based, form the predominant legal system in the area. Reports to police are often withdrawn in favour of the Maslaha system even for offences that are felonious. We are forced to withdraw the cases under threat of violence,” alleged the teachers.
They narrated to the committee how a teacher who punished a student who had beaten her child was fined Sh10,000 by elders.
She had to pay the fine, which also included the slaughtering of a goat, in three instalment.
They added that female teachers, who dress in line with the TSC code, are forced to dress up like Muslims as a precondition to gaining access to the schools and interacting with students.
The teachers also raised concerns on promotions, claiming that nepotism and clannism play a huge role in transfers and promotions.
“We suffer animosity from students who scored grades C- and D+ in their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams who fear that we are taking up jobs they are entitled to,” they added in the petition.
The teachers also said they were living in deplorable conditions as they are denied their socio-economical rights.
Mr Melly asked TSC not to punish the teachers by denying them their salaries.
He also asked Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to address the issue of insecurity in the area.
KHRC Programme Manager Elizabeth Kariuki said teachers cannot work in an environment that is hostile to them.
“We have to ensure that teachers are safe while students are also learning,” Ms Kariuki told the committee.
Teachers working in Mandera have been camping at TSC headquarters demanding transfers to safer areas.
Early this month, TSC Chief Executive Nancy Macharia directed that non-local teachers be posted to serve in schools near urban centres where they can conveniently access accommodation, transport and emergency services.
She said teachers who are faced with proven cases of insecurity and or a hostile working environment should be transferred urgently to prevent loss of life.
“Teachers who require medical attention or psychosocial support are granted the requisite leave as per the code of regulations or transferred to schools where they can access the necessary attention,” said Mrs Macharia and directed county officers to work with security agencies to ensure that teachers are safe.