School headteachers and principals all over the country must be celebrating. So must be their families and other dependents, as well as the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) secretary-general, Mr Wilson Sossion, who is probably patting himself on the back for winning a skirmish against two formidable ladies who head the Teachers Service Commission, Prof Lydia Nzomo and Dr Nancy Macharia. These two do not seem to have any intention of submitting to bullying from any quarter at the moment.
The reason for this imagined hyper-activity is because President Uhuru Kenyatta effectively put to a stop the forcible translocation of school-heads in the name of delocalisation, a policy issue which has not only proved extremely disruptive but also, in some instances, inhumane, since early this year. However, Mr Sossion should not bring out the champagne bottle yet, for he may be in for a rude shock if he believes the President and the TSC bosses caved in to pressure over threats of a teachers’ strike at the start of next month.
This open blackmail may have played a role in the decision to go slow on delocalisation, but I personally do not believe this is necessarily the case. Judging from his demeanour of late, the President does not seem to be in a mood to hearken to threats of any kind, unless such disruptions serve to derail the fight against corruption and the fulfilment of the Big Four agenda. Nevertheless, the decision to review the delocalisation policy, and the contentious performance appraisal, is not only sound but highly welcome.
Whichever way you look at it, the teachers had a strong case, and although their employer had an equally strong case, the way the whole thing was done was imprudent. You do not wake up one morning and decide to inform a 59-year-old Principal that he will, in due course, be transferred from his home in Nyeri to a school in a different county and expect him to applaud. It would have been better for the TSC to start from the bottom – the newly recruited teachers without too many family encumbrances, people who are flexible enough to regard their posting as an adventure.
But of course there is the down-side to this: many of the new recruits may reject deployment to areas where they feel their personal security cannot be guaranteed, meaning the recruits would balk at being posted to far-flung areas, and the employer will inevitably lose out in a situation in which the number of trained teachers on its payroll is already far smaller than is actually required.
There is no doubt that the TSC’s intentions were laudable, even noble. Many headteachers, when they overstay in one station, tend to become too cosy with members of school boards with the real possibility of mischief playing out at the expense of parents and their children. However, the corollary is also possible. Suppose such a teacher has struggled for years to put up a home, say, in Tharaka Nithi, and then he is transferred to a village school in Mandera County. How can he be apply himself in such circumstances?
My take is that there is nothing wrong with delocalisation per se. In fact, it should have been the policy right from the 1960s, for maybe such fissures as witnessed during seasons of political madness when non-indigenous communities are fought as enemies would probably never have arisen.