Trouble looms in JSS As Intern Teachers Ready To Strike.
The 21,550 intern teachers are demanding for permanent and pensionable terms
Admission of the first batch of Grade 6 learners into Junior Secondary School is set to start off on shaky grounds as the intern teachers employed to handle them have threatened to strike from Monday, January 8.
In a strike notice issued by JSS Interim Secretary General Daniel Murithi, the 21,550 intern teachers are demanding permanent and pensionable terms following the expiry of their one-off 11-month contract issued in February last year.
“Subject to the provisions of Article 41 of the Constitution and Article 41 of the Employment Act, we hereby seek to notify the above party on the strike and downing of tools beginning January 8, 2024, until the government, through TSC, addresses the issue in contention as per our legal demands,” the strike notice reads.
The teachers said the industrial action is a last resort, having exhausted all reconciliatory and legal mechanisms to solve the employment dispute.
“We remain with only one option of downing our working tools,” they said.
“Until we all (21,550) are confirmed into permanent and pensionable terms, the strike is bound to continue and shall not stop at all costs even if there is coercion, intimidation, and threats.”
The strike notice comes despite a pending court case filed by The Forum for Good Governance and Human Rights.
The Employment and Labour Relations Court (ELRC) issued interim orders in December binding the intern teachers to their previous contracts with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) pending issuance of further directions on the mater on March 7, 2024.
“The application dated November 29, 2023, is hereby determined to particularly for hearing and determination of the main petition subject to the interim order that pending the hearing and determination of the petition that the parties to any prevailing internship engagement in issue hereby are bounded by those prevailing contracts,” Justice Byram Ongaya ordered on December 21.
In the suit, The Forum for Good Governance and Human Rights protested the deployment of duly trained, certified, qualified and registered teachers as interns.
The Forum argued that hiring teachers in such a manner contravenes the Constitution and fails to place learners on required standard of learning.
Among the contentious clauses in the contract is that the internship is non-remunerative but comes with a Sh20,000 monthly stipend.
Another clause states that the internship is a one-off non-renewable programme running for 11 months from February 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023.
On December 17, President William Ruto, however, assured the interns of employment once they serve for two years.
“The JSS intern teachers will be at work in January. We had promised that before being employed on permanent and pensionable terms in all the sectors, they must do an internship for two years,” Ruto said during a media roundtable at State House, Nairobi.
He said internships are part of the learning on-the-job process, but the teachers would be absorbed on pensionable terms after the two-year period.
But in a statement on January 2, Murithi said the purported two-year internship policy at play “is non-existent and illegal, and such claims from the president should be treated as propaganda and amount to contempt of public trust and abuse of the presidential office.”
He further claimed that TSC was pushing the intern teachers to renew the non-renewable contracts “without any TSC circular, which is the official way of TSC communications.”
The teachers have also lamented that they have worked for a year without proper employment terms, despite being overworked.
It’s only starting this January that subjects in junior secondary school (Grade 7-9) have been reduced from 14 to nine on the recommendations of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform (PWPER).
In a circular to regional, county, and subcounty directors of Education dated December 20, Basic Education Permanent Secretary Belio Kipsang said KICD reached the decision in consultation with the Ministry of Education.
Lessons per week have been reduced from 40 to 35 including the Pastoral Programme of Instruction (PPI).
Integrated Science and Health Education have been integrated into one learning area referred as Integrated Science with five lessons.
Pre-technical Studies, Computer studies and Business studies have been integrated into Pre-technical studies with four lessons per week while Physical Education and Sports, Visual Arts and Performing Arts into Creative Arts and Sports with five weekly lessons.
The intern teachers argue that with this kind of workload, it’s ridiculous for TSC to intimidate them into renewing the non-renewable contracts.
They further claim that the workload will compromise the quality of education by way of teachers taking on too much work.
“Failure to confirm the interns into PnP terms will amount to a deliberate attempt by the government to kill and burry the educational transformation intentions of CBC,” Murithi said.
He further claimed that 2023 graduates are being recruited on permanent and pensionable terms, while those who graduated in 2013, 2014, and 2015 continue to serve as interns.
“The national government is ridiculous in claiming that the Treasury is broke since we have all witnessed the dishing of PnP letters and forms by the MPs, Senators, women reps and other politicians.”