Society / Education
Tuesday, 21 Jun 2016 04:07 EATwmwaniki@kenyafreepress.com
The annual conference of the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association entered its second day at the Wild Waters in Mombasa with suspicions growing between the association and the Teachers Service Commission over a new Code of Conduct for teachers that was launched yesterday.
The new Code of Conduct is expected to face opposition from teachers and their unions, who say they were not consulted in its preparation. The Commission launched the new Code yesterday at the Mombasa Beach Hotel, and its officials are expected to promote it when they take the stage at the head teachers’ conference.
With top education ministry officials and representatives of teachers unions absent at the event, the launch of the Code was low-key. Some sources intimated that the Cabinet secretary[CS] for Education, Fred Matiangi, who missed the event despite his being in Mombasa at the time, was keen to avoid potential ruckus over the Code at a time when he’s lobbying stakeholders to support ongoing curriculum reforms.
The CS held a dinner for stakeholders at the Sarova Whitesands last evening and appealed for their support in the ongoing curriculum review. Those in attendance described the meeting as very cordial. The CS pledged quick progress on the curriculum review, which is late by at least a decade. Kenya’s curriculum was last reviewed in 2003-04, while UNESCO best practices recommend review every five years.
Matiangi’s skipping of the Code launch strengthened the voice of its opponents. This morning, officials of the Kenya National Union of Teachers[KNUT], were protesting their exclusion from the process that led to the new Code. KUPPET, the union of post-primary teachers, planned to raise objections too, according to its secretary general Akelo Misori, who told the Free Press that they were yet to see the document.
The official opening of the conference was postponed by a day to Wednesday morning after KESSHA was informed that President Uhuru Kenyatta, who will preside over the event, wouldn’t arrive in Mombasa today as initially planned. Yesterday’s events were dominated by presentations for the best teacher awards. The presentations will continue today, allowing for the winner and runner-up to be announced tomorrow.
The new Code proposed by TSC recommends regulations to spur accountability in the teaching profession by requiring teachers to declare their wealth and have their accounts subjected to audits.
The rules will also ban teachers from contesting political offices while in service or acting as polling agents for political parties during elections. This regulation is expected to reduce the politicization of the teaching force, many of whose members are often the first line of supporters for electoral candidates at the grassroots.
The rules also aim to stem sexual relationships between teachers and learners by prohibiting teachers from making requests to, or exerting pressure on a learner for sexual activity or favour.
Furthermore, the regulations would require teachers to account for every working hour in order to curb time theft and absenteeism, which have been identified as among the major reasons for poor performance.
The Code of Conduct for teachers has undergone piecemeal amendments since independence, but this is the first time TSC is proposing its overhaul. While the teaching force is beset by many challenges, teachers unions normally amplify those around low pay and poor working conditions, while shielding their members from full accountability.
Predictably, the unions have voiced opposition to the process that led to the regulations rather than their substance.
Saying that he had not seen the text of the Code, Mr Misori said KUPPET would support any regulations that strike a balance between accountability and independence.
“What we will not accept is an attempt to micromanage teachers,” he said.
Winfred is a student of journalism studies at the Technical University of Kenya currently on internship at the Kenya Free Press, specialising in education matters.