There will be no mandatory testing for teachers and learners before the reopening of schools despite the rise in Covid-19 cases in rural counties.
As teachers’ unions yesterday urged the government to release the school calendar, Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said reopening plans were progressing well but the ministry would not supply testing kits because it would be too expensive.
“We need over 17 million testing kits. We have over 15 million pupils in primary Schools, 160,000 in teachers training colleges and technical institutions, and over 400,000 teachers. It will be impossible to take all of them through physical testing, but normal screening using a thermo-gun will be done daily,” said Dr Kipsang in Narok.
He said most teacher training colleges had put in place crucial Covid-19 infrastructure before resumption of classes. “I have been in Narok TTC three times in one month and I am happy to see that the administrators have ensured there is a steady supply of water in all buildings,” said Dr Kipsang. “They must also pair with a medical institution in their locality in case of any emergency for speedy containment measures.”
In Nairobi, though the two rival unions staged parallel meetings to mark the World Teachers’ Day, their leaders roundly condemned the government for mistreating tutors and poor handling of the return-to-class plans.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) asked the ministry to release the school calendar while the Kenya Post Primary Teachers Union (Kuppet) said children should be back in class as soon as possible.
Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion blamed his union’s financial woes on the government. “Knut is financially crippled as it has been deprived of resources and cannot meet most of its financial obligations,” he said.
Due to the bad relationship between the union and the Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC), Knut saw its membership drop from 187, 471 in June last year to 45,217 in September. The drop also saw the union deductions drop from Sh144 million in June to Sh32.9 million.
Mr Sossion also urged the TSC to stop dividing teachers and instead promote those who had obtained higher qualifications. “We cannot achieve our goals if the employer is not supporting us; teachers who have obtained degrees and diplomas should be rewarded for their effort.
“The commission is obligated to strictly observe and respect the teaching profession and fundamental labour principles and rights of teachers as enshrined in the Code of regulations for teachers, CBA, TSC act 2012, labour relations Act 2007, the constitution and the international treaty,” said Mr Sossion
Knut chairman Wycliffe Etole Omucheyi added: “The employer should support us. We are concerned with the attitude and behaviour of the TSC.”
Kuppet urged the TSC to allocate more funds for recruitment of tutors to deal with the acute shortage in the country. “The government should allocate more funds for recruitment of teachers to cater for the increased number of classes and workload,” said Kuppet Secretary-General Akelo Misori in Nairobi.
To cope with the new normal, schools need at least 150,000 new teachers, he said. The country needs 103,481 teachers, according to TSC chief executive Nancy Macharia. Kuppet chairman Omboko Milemba said the union is ready to start negotiations on the 2021-2025 CBA with TSC.
Google country director Agnes Gathaiya said the tech giant is developing digital platforms which tutors could use to teach across the world. “Through Google digital platforms, teachers will be able to come up with various innovations,” she said.
Education CAS Zack Kinuthia lauded teachers for their vital contribution to the society. “Our teachers are now earning better salaries alongside promotions based on merit which was not the case,” he said.