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TSC should address security of NEP teachers urgently

by kenya-tribune

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For more than four years, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has been ‘to-ing’ and ‘fro-ing’ with whether or not to transfer non-local teachers out of Mandera, Garisa and Wajir counties on the basis of insecurity arising from Al-Shabaab attacks.

The TSC finally gave in this January. But transferring the teachers elicited a quick and strongly worded reaction from the elected leaders from the former North Eastern Province.

The pros and cons of the step taken by the TSC, with the pressure it faced from not only the affected teachers but also their unions, are weighty and emotive irrespective on which side of the divide one stands.

First, education is the distributor of life chances to the youth. To have schools in three large counties make do with skeleton staff due to the withdrawal of most of their teachers is to negatively affect the quality of education in that region for a long time to come.

However, the scourge of murder of teachers by terrorists is a more serious issue that has taken too long to address. The bereaved families have suffered irreversible damage without a strategy to address the issue.

The commission must have agonised over the balance between these two positions.


Secondly, the reaction of the region’s governors, senators and MPs to the transfers is one of condemnation of the TSC and a demand that the teachers be taken back to their former stations. That is baffling.

Six or so years ago, a top official of the then-provincial administration wrote to the TSC imploring it to transfer a senior principal out of Garissa. By coincidence, or as a response to the letter, he was moved to Rift Valley. Armed with a copy of the letter, he invoked the independence of the TSC to successfully have the court revoke the transfer.

Were the TSC to cancel these transfers due to public demand by the local leadership, one can be sure that individual teachers or litigious union officials will go to court on the basis of breach of the independence of the TSC and, mostly likely, get judgment in their favour.

So, what is the way forward for Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Tana River, Isiolo, Lamu and other counties with security-related challenges?

The national and relevant county governments and community leaders have to prepare a ‘Marshall Plan’ towards a long-term solution to the education challenges.

That would involve, first, civic education to ensure that the local population understand that they are the real users when the teachers are terrorised and so report any suspected terrorist targeting teachers and other public servants so that their attacks are pre-empted. These people must realise that they are the net losers in the attacks.

Secondly, there is a need to recruit, in large numbers, qualified inhabitants of these counties into the teaching profession since they are less prone to attacks. This will require two to four years to get them trained sufficiently. But it must be done immediately.

Thirdly, the two levels of government may need to consider additional incentives to teachers in these counties. The Constitution may need to be amended to allow counties to spend resources on the incentives, even if it will only be for a defined period of, say, 10 or 20 years, to stabilise the staffing needs of their areas. They may have to use the Equalisation Fund for this.

In Australia, for example, teachers who serve in the arid and hardy central parts of the subcontinent have special incentives — such as accelerated promotions and a one-year paid leave for every three years served in the region. It attracts and retains teachers.

Lastly, the national government may have to deeply and widely consider ways and means of addressing the serious challenges the historically marginalised regions or communities face in areas such as education, agriculture, security, mining, technology, transport and provision of water. That way, inclusivity will be seen to be not only talked about but practised.

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