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Kenya: educators’ union tackling the teacher deprofessionalisation issue

published 13 November 2012 updated 15 November 2012

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) is a teachers’ trade union founded in December 1957 during a conference held in a local school in Nairobi. Its constitution was ratified in 1958 and registered in 1959. It has a membership ranging between 180,000 to 240,000 teachers drawn mainly from primary, secondary and tertiary education institutions. The union operates both as a trade union and professional organisation. It is guided by the Constitution, with the motto “Service and Justice”.

As a trade union, the KNUT has the following obligations among others:-

·         To unite teachers of all grades

·         To negotiate for better terms and conditions of service for its members through collective bargaining

·         To participate in all matters calculated to lead to the improvement of education

·         To follow closely the Education Ministry policy implementation strategies and raise red flags in case of anomalies

Accordingly, the union is guided by a constitution which spells out its objectives and decision-making processes. The constitution applies to various KNUT governing bodies, from school representatives in every school to the top institution, which is the Annual Delegates Conference (ADC) held once a year to give proposals on activities and issues to be undertaken by the union within a given period. The responsibility of a successful implementation of ADC resolutions lies with the National Executive Council (NEC) with members from all the country’s 47 counties. The NEC is expected to run all programmes on behalf of KNUT members. The National Steering Committee operates from the KNUT head office and is directed by the Secretary General, who is the trade union’s chief spokesman.

The union has achieved tremendous goals for its members not only in spearheading issues affecting the welfare of teachers, but also in ensuring that the government is committed to providing quality public education. In partnership with Education International and other local and international donor organisations, the trade union has carried out education programmes focusing on crucial areas such as child labour, HIV and AIDS, Education for All (EFA), peace initiatives, awareness-raising activities towards the Teachers’ Service Commission, and Education Bills, which directly or indirectly affect teachers in particular and education in general.

Ways KNUT is addressing educators’ deprofessionalisation

There is a need for the trade union to initiate a global discussion on the future of the teaching profession. This need led to the formation of the Forum for East African Teachers’ Unions, to which KNUT is affiliated and whose head office is in Arusha, Tanzania.

As a trade union, we counter the employment of unqualified teachers, the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy and hence support effective recruitment and retention programmes as a core strategy to reach the EFA goals. This will lead to improving quality education, quality training and upgrading programmes for unqualified and under qualified teachers – thus improving schools and institutional leadership. KNUT has to foster and apply the appropriate skills in supporting HIV and AIDS prevention education, protecting and upholding the rights of members living positively with the virus. KNUT advocates for the improved remuneration and employment of teachers on a permanent basis so that they are not tempted to leave the profession for greener pastures.

A comprehensive system of induction activities for the formation of teachers’ professionalism and identification must be created. KNUT also recognises and promotes teachers’ intellectual work. This will motivate and give teachers a chance to participate in the realisation of the agenda Vision 2030. In addition, KNUT creates strong partnerships in the context of meaningful involvement by key stakeholders in the education process, such as experts from the universities, educational boards, parents’ associations, etc.

Teachers’ professional development needed for quality education

Teachers’ professional development, just like other factors, is equally important in enhancing the implementation process of the curriculum and is an essential consideration for any education reforms. This development enhances the capacity of curriculum implementers in any education system, and is fundamental to a successful implementation process. This is the only way of ensuring that the curriculum meets its requirements during implementation and learners get the necessary support.

In conclusion, and as we celebrate World Teachers’ Day on 5 October and embrace the theme, “Take a Stand for Teachers”, we need to bear in mind that although significant progress has been realised in teacher management over the years, the quality of education in Kenya has been hampered by limited skills, large class sizes, inadequate teachers’ training and facilities, poor remuneration compared to other economy sectors, among others, resulting in frequent calls for strike (for instance, all public school teachers are currently on nationwide strike) while negotiating higher salaries. Other challenges affecting the quality of teaching services include inefficient teachers’ use, continued interference in teacher management, and overlaps in the teacher managers’ functions at school, district and national levels.

By Idris Ibrahim, Executive Officer, Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT)