Junior secondary school (JSS) teachers will now be members of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).
The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has solved the statement and now all teachers in junior secondary section will now be Knut members.
The teachers like their colleagues in primary school will pay 2% of their basic salary as union dues each month to support operations of the union.
Already a big number of teachers who teach in junior secondary received their salaries. However only a small number of P1 teachers who were deployed to teach Grade 7 have been paid.
There was a war of membership between Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) and Knut.
Kuppet fought for junior secondary to be domiciled in secondary schools while Knut wanted it to be taken to primary school.
However acting on the recommendations of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform, the Ministry directed that JSS be domiciled in primary schools, for various reasons, including consideration on the age of the learners, availability of resources and cultural factors.
This month Knut and Kuppet revived the debate on JSS, raising questions about what the disagreement was about.
Kuppet, generally, represents teachers in secondary schools and other institutions while Knut represents mostly primary school teachers.
However, teachers are free to choose which union to join, irrespective of the institutions they work for.
With the coming of JSS, the TSC hired 30,000 teachers, one for each JSS in public institutions.
This could have, behind the scenes, sparked the differences between the two unions given that teachers pay a monthly subscription fee to their unions.
The amount is deducted from their salaries by their employer, the TSC, which then forwards it to the unions.
Every member pays about two per cent of their basic salary as a monthly contribution to their union. According to Knut’s constitution, the total amount deducted monthly should not exceed Sh1,200.
Contacted for comment, both Knut and Kuppet denied they were involved in a competition for the new teachers.
Knut Secretary General Collins Oyuu said JSS was facing numerous challenges that need to be addressed urgently. According to him, signing up the new members was not a problem at the moment.
“Our hardest times were between 2018 to 2021 when we lost members from over 180,000 to about 11,000,” he said, revisiting the question of member numbers.
“By early 2021, our offices were closed and there were no salaries for headquarters staff and branch secretaries.”
During that period, the union accrued numerous debts, which included taxes owed to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and benefits from members who had retired from service.
According to him, in July 2021, the union embarked on a vigorous campaign to recruit members.
“As we speak now, we have over 170,000 members. We have done our best to pay debts, opened branch offices, all our full time staff salaries were reinstated and we are back on our feet,” he said, implying that now, the union is not in dire need of new members.
“We are not fighting for members; that is ill-placed. We know too well because the law is clear. There is nowhere a member is forced to join; you choose a union to belong to. Fighting over members is neither here nor there. That is why we have secondary school teachers in Knut,” he told PD.
Kuppet National chairman Milemba Omboko said the serious question of domiciling JSS in secondary schools goes beyond politicisation of the matter and also dismissed the notion that the union was competing for members.
“The JSS is getting wasted, it is not about fighting for members. We have qualified teachers in primary but may not be conversant with some subjects, especially sciences, which are required in forming the learners’ pathways,” he said, expounding on the thinking behind the union’s quest to have JSS domiciled in secondary schools.
Kuppet, which has about 117,00 members, has stated that it is undertaking research on the status of JSS. However, its position is a sharp contrast to that taken by Knut, the Ministry of Education and the government.
Indeed, the differences in standpoints between the two unions came about last week when Kuppet demanded disbandment of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER), accusing it of causing more confusion than offering solutions on JSS transition.
The union stated it is not too late for the government to domicile JSS in secondary schools.
“It is common sense that building more classrooms in secondary schools – which already have laboratories – would be easier and more cost-effective than trying to create whole new infrastructure like labs in primary schools,” the union officials said.
However, in a rejoinder, the Knut boss and the Kenya Primary School Heads Association chairman, Johnston Nzioka, issued a joint statement saying those calling for disbandment of the working party should stop causing confusion.
“Some people are calling for disbursement of PWPER for reasons not benefitting. We know there are some stakeholders in the sector, specifically trade unions, whose struggle is only to secure membership and not the interests of our children,” the joint statement said.
According to Oyuu, membership should not be a reason for pushing and pulling at this time when a lot of time has been wasted and proper learning is yet to take off in some JSS classes.
“It is ridiculous and hypocritical that some people who participated in giving views to PWPER are now calling for its disbandment for reasons that their views and interests are not factored. It should be known that the interests of our nation in education of our children should take first priority…we need to move forward,” said Oyuu.
He restated that the issue of membership was not a concern for Knut.
“This is a simple matter of recognition agreement and the law is superior than any other agreement. Nobody should talk about benefit of membership in terms of placement of junior secondary whether in primary or secondary section but here we are, they are domiciled in primary,” he said. “I do not want to push my argument over where they are domiciled. My argument is which union they choose to belong to and I am speaking and quoting ce fee as provided in the union’s rules.
Having many members gives a union more strength when it comes to negotiating Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs), between them and the employer. Teachers’ unions normally negotiate five-year CBAs, up from two years in the past. With more teachers set to be hired to make JSS work better and overcome its teething problems, the battle for numbers may continue to play out between the two unions.ons.