From a giant union in its heyday, to the recent accusation that the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) is trying to cripple it, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has come a long way.
As we hope that a solution will be found to stem the loss of life, KNUT should also take this time to do some soul searching.
Over the years, the once teachers’ welfare promoter seems to have run away from its core mandate. Hence not many are shocked nor surprised at its current sorry state of affairs.
KNUT should not forget the main facts.
Governments educate children. Citizens fund the education via taxes and fees. KNUT and other stakeholders support the process.
No matter how justified you are, if you stand in the middle of the road to stop this process, you will be dealt with sooner or later. Removed or an alternative road sought. But teaching must go on.
The government will strive to deliver on its mandate. When best behaved it will be full of PR like the Jubilee Government of 2013.
At its worst, the State is a snake that bites once rattled. And in between, it ignores ‘inconveniences’ even court orders. So, confrontation may not get you far, for long.
The country’s leadership is also changing. We now have public participation, and devolved governments. Many people who were formerly teachers now hold political offices. This has ramifications’ e.g. counties are responsible for ECDE. The ‘us verses the government’ narrative might now not hold much weight.
To move forward, KNUT should go back to basics. Facilitate the smooth running of the school ecosystem. There was time you made teachers prosper; and respected members of the society. They were employed hence could get loans from banks and start side businesses. Some even formed Saccos and established businesses together.
Revisit that goal.
The house of KNUT should also be put in order. There has been internal strife that can’t be wished way. There is a saying that goes one chased away with a club will return while one defeated justly concedes. Though they may not come back, disgruntled members rob of you of goodwill that is so crucial to KNUT’s survival.
Consensus is key.
Teachers are still round facing tough times like everybody else in the country. It’s just that for now they’re hosted by other unions. Join up and find a middle-ground since, at the end of the day, everyone invested in the process wants everything to run smoothly.
Expand membership and activities. Include interns, BOM teachers. They may not bring much money but they’re the future. Link up with colleges so that teachers can learn other skills in the evening or from home and so forth.
The colleges will get a lifeline and teachers will be forever grateful. Host former teachers who are now leaders elsewhere and see how you can help them succeed. We all want a better country.
Finally consider quitting while still ahead. It’s tough being a teacher, union leader and politician at the same time. It’s not impossible and courts may not agree. But nomination to the August house and other leadership positions brings new dynamics.
One will thus be able to help at a higher level without being involved in the specifics of a particular office. It will also be easier to engage other stakeholders who are not teachers.
All for the greater good.