Kenya National Union of Teacher needs to get its act together

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019 00:00 |
Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion. Photo/GERALD ITHANA

Kenya’s arguably most controversial workers union, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), is grappling with potentially crippling challenges. 

They include internal leadership wrangles and perpetual disputes with the government on several issues, including implementation of the new curriculum.

The standoff over whether secretary general Wilson Sossion should quit or continue to lead the organisation even after being struck off the list of teachers by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has sharply divided members.

It is also clear that Sossion’s fiery opposition to the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) is not shared by all union officials and  membership, with the Nominated MP at times appearing to be staging a one-man show in his wars with the Education ministry.

The prevailing situation at Knut does not augur well for the teaching fraternity and our education system. For one, teachers’ welfare is bound to suffer when the union is not strong.

The truth is that the teaching fraternity has achieved great strides in terms of remuneration and other welfare matters in the past two decades, thanks to the redoubtable union. A weakened Knut could deal the teachers a serious blow.

Secondly, teachers are at the core to the success of  education goals. That is even more crucial now that the new curriculum is being implemented. Which is why teachers’ lukewarm, if not hostile, reception of the CBC  risks jeopardising its success.

It’s time Knut got its act together. For starters, it  must ensure the opinion of the leadership represents the voice of a majority of  the teachers. Hitherto, Knut has been one of the most cohesive and better organised trade unions in Kenya. There would be costs if that changes.

The teachers union must also reconsider its belligerent approach to issues. While the relationship between an employer and a trade union is expected to be mostly adversarial, this must not be allowed to degenerate to state where it affects interests of the main stakeholders — the learners.

In particular, Knut and the government must reach an agreement on CBC implementation.  To achieve that, Knut and the ministry must thrash out their differences on the new curriculum. They owe it to the Kenyan children and the country’s future.  

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