As the school year begins across Kenya, the Kenya National Union of Teachers, KNUT, has successfully initiated legal action to block government plans to hire ‘intern’ teachers, fearing that this new development would create a new sub-class of underpaid teachers, which would further endanger the achievement of quality education.
The union, which is supported in its action by the Teacher Service Commission, insist that hiring ‘intern’ teachers is not an effective or sustainable way to tackle Kenya’s teacher shortfall. The Commission has been responsible for the recruitment and employment of teachers for over forty years, contends it can only hire teachers on permanent and pensionable terms.
Since free primary education was introduced in 2003, rising enrolment rates have compounded teacher shortages estimated to be as high as 60,000. While in recent years the government annually hired 10,000 teachers to keep pace with teacher attrition, in 2009 the Kenyan Government has attempted to hire 12,000 ‘intern’ teachers on temporary two year contracts.
Recognising that high teacher-pupil ratios undermine the quality education, KNUT supports initiatives to get more teachers into the classroom. Calling on the government to prioritise quality rather than quantity in recruitment, the union leadership remains convinced that education prospects in Kenya will be improved if teachers are hired with equitable terms and on a permanent basis.