The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) is fighting to remain relevant, going by recent events. The latest nail on Knut’s coffin was the High Court’s move upholding a decision by the Teachers Service Commission to deregister Mr Wilson Sossion as a teacher following his entry into politics two years ago.
Justice Nelson Abuodha said Mr Sossion’s election as a union official was underpinned by the fact that he was and remains a teacher.
He was therefore subject to the regulations governing the service, the court said.
According to the 2015 Teachers Code of Conduct and Ethics, a teacher should maintain political neutrality and should not act in a manner that may compromise or be perceived to compromise the neutrality.
“The acceptance of the nomination to the National Assembly by the Orange Democratic Movement obviously puts Mr Sossion on a partisan political activity. It was a manifestation of an agreement to support the ODM agenda in and outside Parliament,” Justice Abuodha said.
The judge added that this was inconsistent with Mr Sossion’s contractual obligation to the commission as a teacher.
“The relationship he had with the TSC was contractual and could be terminated by either party for lawful reasons,” Justice Abuodha added.
However, Mr Sossion insisted that he would not relinquish his Knut post.
His argument is based on the 2007 Labour Relations Act.
“The general secretary of a trade union or the chief executive or association secretary of an employers’ organisation may be a person not engaged or employed in the sector concerned,” the Act says.
During a dispute with the TSC last year, the commission declined to engage Mr Sossion as a representative of the union and instead preferred chairman Wycliffe Omucheyi, Deputy secretary-general Hesborne Otieno and national treasurer John Matiang’i.
At one point, Mr Sossion was removed from the post by his colleagues but the decision was stopped by a court.
The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), whose chairman Omboko Milemba is the MP for Emuhaya, has allowed Mr Julius Korir (vice-chairman ) and secretary-general Akelo Misori to transact business on behalf of Kuppet in its dealings with the commission.
Knut also appears to have lost its position as a key stakeholder in the country’s education after it was excluded from the task force on curriculum reforms chaired by Kenyatta University Deputy Vice-chancellor Fatuma Chege.
For a year, the committee will advise the government on the implementation of the new curriculum.
Years ago, officials of Knut and Kuppet were incorporated in the National Steering Committee on Curriculum Review that was formed by the then Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.
The TSC is also working to diminish the financial muscle of the giant union by denying it resources.
At one point, TSC wanted to stop remitting teachers’ dues to the union.
Despite a January court ruling, the TSC has declined to remit agency fee collected from teachers. However, Kuppet has been receiving the money.
Knut says it loses Sh50 million in non-remitted agency fee every month.
Two weeks ago, it was clear that things were not good for Knut when Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) and Kenya Primary School Heads Association officials convened press conferences to denounce Knut.
Kessha chairman Kahi Indimuli and his Kepsha counterpart Nicholas Gathemia have kept off union politics.
They came to the defence of the TSC, raising questions if they were under instructions to attack Knut.
The two asked headteachers to resign from their union positions and focus on administrative duties.
“We signed a performance contract with the employer and as such, we shall not entertain...the derailment of full implementation of the CBA,” Mr Gathemia said.
If the heads make good their threat, Knut is likely to lose close to 22,000 members while Kuppet will lose close to 8,000.
On the new curriculum, trouble started when Mr Sossion demanded that its implementation be stopped to allow for talks.
However, Education CS George Magoha ignored the demand and called off a meeting with the union.
Prof Magoha later said the exercise would go on. Some 280 Knut members who disrupted the training for the new curriculum were interdicted.
Prof Magoha turned to teachers associations instead.
Mr Gathemia, Mr Indimuli, Kenya Private Schools Association chairperson Mutheu Kasanga, National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo and Special Schools Heads Association chairman Arthur Injenga were incorporated into the team to represent teachers.
The newly registered Kenya Women Teachers Association has asked Prof Magoha to include it in the task force.
The leadership of the association has since met Prof Magoha and agreed to work with the government, saying it backs the new curriculum.