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Only Sossion’s departure can save Knut from collapse

By Gathu Kaara
Monday, September 14th, 2020
Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion. Photo/GERALD ITHANA
In summary

It is perhaps, an apt metaphor, that the ebbing days of Wilson Sossion as secretary general of Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) are as embroiled in controversy as when he started. 

Sossion became Knut boss by abrasively trashing a long tradition of rotation of leadership positions that would have seen acting secretary general, Mudzo Nzili, from the Coast, endorsed to the post in that year’s annual delegates conference.

Knut is on its knees. From its 187,000 members, 90,000 have left. Its rival, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) members are up to 120,000, and growing.

Dues have slumped to Sh83 million from Sh140 million monthly, resulting in unpaid rents and salaries running into months.

The decline of Knut aligns perfectly with the tenure of Sossion as secretary general. What went wrong?

Sossion made Knut the union of strikes. Nothing was too small to strike over, creating perpetual turmoil in education.

Indeed, his strikes were timed to cause maximum disruption. Finally, everybody, teachers, students, parents, the Government, and the country in general, were all completely fed up.

He arrayed himself against all Government initiatives, and became Mr No. He railed against the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC), even sending teachers to disrupt induction training sessions for their colleagues.

He opposed the appointment of Prof. George Magoha as Education Cabinet Secretary, and vowed not to work with him. 

He opposed the delocalisation policy where head teachers who had stayed for over nine years at one work station were being transferred. The list goes on.

His nadir was when he accepted nomination to Parliament by ODM party, a huge lapse of judgement.

He saw nothing wrong in engaging in partisan politics while running a union whose members are from across the political divide, nor earning two salaries from public jobs.

He seemed to walk on water. When the TSC deregistered him because of this, he blissfully brushed it aside.

Unfortunately for Knut, Sossion alienated all allies and partners, from Kuppet, to TSC, union members, Government officials, and parents, and turned public opinion against a union once seen as a bulwark against Government trampling on rights of workers.

In an effort to save Knut, the National Executive Committee (NEC) met in August 2019 for a meeting Sossion had called and later cancelled, and threw him out.

The courts reinstated him. He is now in office on the strength of a court order. His penchant for prosecuting every other issue in court is a well sung refrain.

The Annual Delegates Conference that was due to be held in December 2019 in Kakamega was suspended indefinitely, and he is not talking about it at all.

The reason given was that the leadership was trying to resolve wrangles within it.

A self-serving argument, because the delegates conference would have been the best place to resolve those wrangles by giving a new team a clear mandate.

As it is now, the embattled Sossion will continue running Knut against strong headwinds that will inevitably overwhelm it soon.

The last nail in the coffin was the battle over promotions. Knut went to court and stopped TSC from using the career progression guidelines that were in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), in favour of the old schemes of service. 

TSC obliged, and created two payrolls, one for Knut members to be paid according to the old schemes, and the other for non-Knut members, to be paid according to the CBA.

The non-Knut members have already received two pay rises since last year in line with the CBA.

Worse, Knut has said it will recover any money inadvertently paid to its members in line with the new guidelines. Knut members are stampeding for the exits. 

Attempts by MPs to try and save Sossion by brokering a truce with TSC is too little too late. TSC has zero incentive at this stage to play ball. They hold the four aces.

But even as he puts on a brave face with his usual fiery rhetoric, Knut is locked into a fatal plunge from which only a new thinking, a new ethos, and a drastic pullback from self-inflicted woes can pull it out of.

And it is clear that Sossion is either unable or unwilling to do this. He needs to go! [email protected]

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