The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) top decision-making organ this week passed a tough resolution now threatening to tear the union apart over the formation of a splinter outfit for women.
The union’s National Executive Council (NEC) and the National Advisory Council (NAC) passed a resolution to kick out all women who will join the new Kenya Women Teachers Association (Kewota).
“The NEC shall not entertain wayward members who collaborate with enemies of the union clandestinely forming associations or unions to rival KNUT,” the KNUT statement said.
The statement has sparked outrage from the Kewota leadership, accusing KNUT of “discriminating against women and exercising dictatorial tendencies”.
“The constitution allows us to join any association or union of choice. The same way women teachers freely joined the union is the same way they will chose without coercion to join Kewota,” said the national chairperson, Dorothy Muthoni.
Muthoni is the former KNUT first national woman representative. Benta Opande, former KNUT Executive Officer, is the association’s Chief Executive Officer.
And the current KNUT second national woman representative Jacinta Ndegwa is the Kewota national treasurer.
An internal circular by KNUT Secretary General Wilson Sossion to all branch executive secretaries two months ago, laid ground for the major resolution passed this week.
The circular dated April 29 cautioned that any union official or officers forming and joining such association shall cease being officials or officers of the union.
“All of us are elected and employed to serve the union without undermining it through the formation of alternate associations and organisations that threaten to break the union,” said Sossion.
He warned that no association shall be formed, registered and granted autonomy to exercise certain mandates already provided for in the union. The stern letter was copied to all KNUT NEC members, branch chairpersons and treasurers.
Nothing new Muthoni however said the association is not entirely new, noting that it was registered in 2007.
“Over the years women teachers have chosen to join us and we have so far been joined by 69,800 members, all under government payroll,” she said. Of these, she said 1,800 are drawn from universities.
“As you can see we have members from KNUT, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) and universities. Some are not affiliated to any union,” said Muthoni.
KNUT documents tabled during the NEC and NAC meeting reveal that by May this year, the union had 187,424 members.
And with membership of 68,000 female teachers on the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) payroll, Kewota has recruited about 40 per cent of KNUT membership. Muthoni said 48 per cent of the 313,917 registered teachers are women.This means the association is targeting about 150,680 female teachers under basic education alone. KNUT data further shows that registered teachers currently not aligned to any union stands at 126,493.