Petitioners seek to block teachers refresher courses
Mercy Mwai and Noah Cheploen
The new policy of refresher courses for teachers ran into a hurdle yesterday after petitions were filed in court and in Parliament to stop its implementation.
Petitioners questioned the Teachers Service Commission’s Professional Development Programme (PDP) that tutors are expected to undertake every five years.
They also questioned the criteria used to select the four institutions to offer the courses.
The policy, which has been opposed by teachers unions, requires teachers to pay Sh6,000 for the training.
While the petition filed in court seeks to have the directive halted on grounds that it is unconstitutional and illegal since no public participation was undertaken, another petition filed in the National Assembly seeks to have TSC restrained from rolling out the programme.
In the Employment and Labour Relations court in Nakuru, petitioner Joseph Ngethe Karanja argued that the policy contravenes the Constitution and labour laws.
Karanja, who describes himself as an education consultant, asked the court to permanently halt the implementation of the programme saying stakeholders were not consulted and that TSC failed to carry out public participation.
“Teachers and stakeholders in the education sector were not engaged by the first respondent (TSC) in the development of the content of the modules to be undertaken,” he said.
“The rollout of the programme was undertaken in secrecy and without involvement of teachers who are the primary subjects of the said programme,” he stated, adding that TSC arbitrarily appointed the four institutions to offer the programme.
TSC picked Kenyatta University, Mt Kenya University, Riara University and the Kenya Education Management Institute to offer the courses.
Karanja argued that the move by the commission amounted to imposing new educational requirements, which would be used in future to determine individual employment status despite having attained the required academic qualifications at the time of employment.
In the National Assembly, lawmakers supported a similar petition tabled by Emuhaya MP Omboko Milemba on behalf of three petitioners of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (KUPPET).
The petition is asking the House to not only restrain TSC from rolling out the programme but also ask it to conduct public participation and explain how they settled on the four institutions.
Speaker Justin Muturi asked the Education Committee chaired by Busia Woman Representative Florence Mutua to start investigations into how TSC came up with the proposal.
MPs said the proposal by TSC was meant to degrade teachers.
Among those who spoke against the policy were Leader of Minority John Mbadi, Milemba, Jared Okello (Nyando), David Sankok (Nominated), Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini) and Didmus Barasa (Kimilili).
Others were Martha Wangari (Gilgil), Gitonga Murugara (Tharaka), Wilson Sossion (Nominated), Owen Baya (Kilifi North) and Richard Onyonka (Kitutu Chache South).
They said that if the policy is implemented, it would affect the financial situation of teachers.
They questioned the rationale of choosing the four universities, all in Nairobi, yet there are institutions of higher learning in every county, which can also offer the courses. Mbadi said it was unacceptable for TSC to ask teachers to cater for the cost of the training.
“I wonder whether TSC looks at the payslips of teachers. Why do you tell teachers to pay for the refresher courses? This is unacceptable,” he said.
Okello accused TSC of not involving teachers while coming up with the policy.
Sossion said the programme goes against the rule of law and the Constitution.
“TSC is not Parliament to make laws and implement them. This policy should first have been brought to us,” he said
Milemba said that the decision by TSC to manage teachers and also oversight them as a professional body was a departure from its original mandate, which includes looking at the welfare of teachers.
“Teachers are underpaid and have stagnated in one position for the last 10 years. It is, therefore, insensitive for them to ask teachers to pay Sh6,000,” he added.
Barasa and Wangari said there is need for stakeholder consultations before the policy is implemented to avoid it being rejected.
Earlier in the Nakuru court, Karanja said that tutors stand to lose if PDP is allowed to stand.
“It is generally threatening to violate the guaranteed labour relations rights of all teachers… it is also transferring the costs of continuous development training to the teachers rather than the employer shouldering the costs,” he said.
“The petitioner contends that in purporting to introduce the compulsory teacher professional development programme, TSC acted outside the scope of the Constitution,” his affidavit reads.
He also wants a permanent injunction restraining TSC, the Cabinet Secretary for Basic Education, the Attorney General, KUPPET, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and the four universities from implementing the policy.
Speaking during the launch of the training programme, TSC Chief Executive Nancy Macharia said the TPD is a life-long learning programme organised in six-tiered competency levels where each level takes five years to complete.