The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) has threatened to boycott the invigilation, supervision and marking of national examinations, citing poor treatment.
This comes as the scheduled dates for the start of the national examinations at the end of this month are fast approaching.
Through its national officers, the union decried the poor and risky working conditions, meagre and delayed payment of salaries to which its members have been subjected in the past.
Accordingly, KUPPET demanded an agreement with the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) to harmonise the contentious issues before its members can decide to offer their services.
The leaders were speaking during an annual general meeting of the KUPPET branch held at a hotel in Mosocho, Kisii County, on Tuesday.
The meeting brought together KUPPET members and officials from Nyanza, Western and Rift Valley.
National Deputy Secretary General Moses Nthurima told journalists that the union has no agreement with KNEC on the appointment and use of its members in invigilating and marking national examinations.
“Most of the time when our members are invigilating, they leave home early and come back at night, thus working overtime, yet KNEC does not address the concept of equal pay for work done,” Nthurima said.
Accordingly, Nthurima called on KNEC to engage the union to address the issue, which he also described as bordering on discrimination.
“They are paying security teams (policemen) while teachers have to wait even for seven months. This is discrimination,” he added.
Mr Nthurima noted that KNEC offers less than Sh100 per marked paper and that the variation depends on the subject.
In the same vein, KUPPET called on KNEC to improve the working conditions of teachers who mark national examinations.
He likened exam marking centres to concentration camps where teachers are not allowed to have their communication devices such as mobile phones.
“This country has a very progressive constitution that enshrines the right to information. Teachers cannot even communicate with their families,” Mr Nthurima said.
KUPPET has observed that markers are often put to sleep in unhygienic student dormitories, where they are fed by bedbugs and risk contracting other skin infections.
We are asking teachers not to report to the centres before KNEC talks to us,” KUPPET urged, calling on KUPPET members not to betray the union’s position by sneaking into marking centres only to be subjected to the conditions they abhor.
Mr Nthurima said they would also use such talks to renegotiate the marking rates per paper, which he said were very low.
Mr Nthurima’s views were echoed by KUPPET national vice-president Julius Korir.
“Without an increase in money for supervision, invigilation and marking, we are telling our members to boycott. We urge our members not to betray the union by trooping to the examination and marking centres,” Korir said.
On the issue of the Ministry of Education wanting to take over some of the functions of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), KUPPET said it would not accept anything less than an independent commission that the unions had really fought for.
“We want the independence of the TSC because we fought for it. If it is going to change, let it not be a suffering centre for teachers but a smiling centre,” said Edward Obwocha, KUPPET National Secretary for Secondary Education.
Mr Obwocha urged KUPPET members to cooperate with the leadership in its negotiations with the government because “governments are very difficult to deal with without the support of the people”.
Of particular concern to the union, which has discussed this with the TSC, is the huge disparity in pay between teachers in the same working environment.
“The difference between what a classroom teacher earns and what a head teacher earns is currently about 75 per cent. We want to talk to TSC to bridge the gap to the internationally accepted standard of no more than 25 per cent,” said Korir.
He said the union had recommended a salary increase of between 30 and 70 per cent in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for 2021.
This is yet to be implemented despite the formation of a technical committee to look into the matter, Mr Korir said.
The union also wants the government to train and equip teachers in conflict-prone areas such as Lamu, Kapedo and Samburu with guns to enable them to impart “quality education” to learners.
“We are demanding that teachers in insecure areas be given guns to protect themselves. The right way to deal with the challenge is not to send the Minister for Internal Security to Lamu, Kapedo or Samburu to play politics, but to give teachers guns. That way, the bandits will know that these teachers have guns to protect the teachers, the community and the learners to get quality education,” said Mr Nthurima.
“These are secondary school teachers. How do you take them to a place where people (head teachers) are below them and then call them managers? This report by the task force is misplaced and should be discarded,” stressed Nthurima.
Currently, junior schools are housed in primary schools, but with teachers who were originally trained to teach in secondary (senior) schools.
A recent report by the Siaya County branch of KUPPET revealed that some junior school teachers are being forced by their station heads to teach primary classes.
The revelation came despite the fact that such a responsibility is not in the job description of JS teachers, according to their deployment letters and the many subjects they are expected to cover in a single day.
The Siaya branch of KUPPET noted that the conflict between ward leaders and JS teachers bordered on an inferiority complex on the part of the former.
Junior school teachers are university graduates while most primary and junior school head teachers are P1 qualified.
Following the TSC teacher recruitment in January/February and July/August, most junior schools received two teachers to cover the 10+ subjects.
However, many of the new recruits have been hired as interns and are paid a stipend of Sh20,000 per month, although some are finding it difficult to settle in the deprived areas to which they have been posted.