Plight of JSS intern teachers: TSC should listen to their voice

JSS

Were it not for the heavy rains received in the country leading to floods and death and destruction of properties and the doctors strike that has dominated the news for 56 days and to a less extent the “fake” fertiliser scandal, the ongoing demonstrations by close to 50,000 strong intern teachers in Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) would have dominated news for a while.

But what is the genesis of this challenge? It is simply lack of resources at the TSC to pay the interns because it has not been provided by the Treasury which is faced with its own challenge of distributing the available resources to competing demands.

The normal practice would be that the Treasury sets ceilings of expenditure according to sectors of the economy. It is upon the leaders of these sectors to apportion the available funds to the ministries within the sector.

And again there are competing demands even within each Ministry. For example, what could the Ministry of Education prioritise between defraying the huge pending bills in the universities, providing infrastructure in JSS, employing teachers for all levels of education, sustaining the ongoing construction of facilities in Technical and Vocational Education Institutions just to mention a few areas of concern. When the TSC eventually gets its allocation it has to decide how to spread out the said funds to the teachers across the board.

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What option does the TSC have at a time of austerity? International practices for determining teacher remuneration take into account certain variables.

First, is the number of contact hours per teacher per week. If for example the average contact hour for all teachers was say 25 lessons per week and this was increased to 30 hours per week by the employer then the demand for teachers will reduce hence the wage bill.

Secondly, the number of students in each class can be increased from say 40 to 60. This will also reduce the demand for teachers.

Thirdly, the employer may consider reducing the wage bill by retiring older teachers and employing interns at a much lesser salary than their colleagues on Permanent and Pensionable terms. Apparently, this is the option that the TSC chose to take several years ago hence the current scenario.

However, in choosing this scenario the TSC may not have given much thought to the fact that a salary of KSh20,000 for a secondary school teacher anywhere in the country cannot sustain the demand of these teachers whichever way one looks at it.

In advance countries the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) is considered in setting remuneration of employees. It is an economic term for measuring prices at different locations within countries or across countries inorder to compare remuneration in different countries objectively.

TSC finds itself in a situation in which a new curriculum was originated by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) embraced by the Ministry headquarters and implemented without much consultation with the TSC, the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) and tertiary institutions including the universities and the Treasury in the formative stages of curriculum.

Indeed, it is only now that a sessional paper on the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) and the relevant laws to support its implementation are being discussed. How, then, was TSC expected to make long term plans on teacher management without the relevant policies and laws being put in place? The see-saw decisions on where to domicile JSS did not make matters easier.

We have a situation in which there are excess teachers in primary schools since its grades have reduced from eight to six, and yet for the first year (2023) these teachers were not allowed to teach Grade Seven JSS students. TSC is belatedly deploying these teachers to JSS having realised that the cost of employing teachers for Secondary Schools that have increased grades from four to six (grades seven to twelve) is quite high.

The agitation of the JSS interns for better terms of service and the gains they have made through the courts does not help TSC much. The TSC cannot have its cake and eat it. It has to abolish the internship programme and employ teachers on permanent terms.

Mwalimu Andrew Kibet

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Education News - Newspaper Vol 281