Defining the teachers we need for the education we want, and creating them

This year, World Teachers’ Day celebrations focused on the theme, “The teachers we need for the education we want: The global imperative to reverse the teacher shortage”.We appreciate Unesco in this respect for always driving the agenda of Education in all our societies and nations by designing yearly themes that resonate with the contemporary needs of Education.

In Kenya, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) led all education stakeholders in celebrating the Kenyan teachers on October 5 – the World Teachers’ Day.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has set a tradition of dedicating a whole day for Post-World Teachers’ Day celebration. This year, we hosted our event at the Kitui Teachers’ College in Kitui County.

Developing countries like Kenya are still on the light of trying to define the right teacher for the moment. Education is designed to undergo reviews that reflect the changing needs of the labor market. That is the reason in the history of our republic, we have had some changes in our national curriculum.

Most notably, in 1985, Kenya changed its education structure from a 7-4-2-3 to an 8-4-4 system. More recently in 2017, Kenya launched the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) to replace the 8-4-4 system. Unlike the 8-4-4 structure where learners would spend eight years in primary school, four years in secondary school, and another four years at the university, the CBC curriculum runs on a 2-6-3-3-3 system, where basic education is organized into three levels: Early Years Education, Middle School Education, and Senior School.

We must therefore ask ourselves: What type of teacher do we want to be able to navigate these reforms?

Highly motivated teachers

We need highly motivated teachers, so that they effectively discharge their duties and responsibilities in conformity with the expectations of the Teachers Service Commission Act No. 20 of 2012.

We must be cognizant of the fact that with the growing dynamics in education and envisioned reforms, a teacher may only be capable of keeping their relevance by ensuring they are knowledgeable. It is incumbent on the employer to ensure that teachers are continuously trained, tooled and retooled so that they are able to quickly handle the changes.

In our recent agreement with the employer (TSC), and with the support of the National Assembly, it was resolved that a budget provision be availed to have Teacher Professional Development undertaken by the employer.

Knowledge gained in school must be in direct proportion to the behavior, actions and attitude of learners. The direct evidence of transformation driven by education is character. Lifelong skills are critically required in our youthful generations to enable them to handle contemporary life challenges, an aspect that has been quite elusive in the recent past. This impact is one of the key reasons why we need a purposeful teacher.

Today’s teacher must be one who is acquainted with technological skills that are relevant to navigating digital and modern learning. The world is transiting from old-school to the new world order, where the old platforms we used in the past are slowly but steadily fading away.

The changing world of work

In respect to the changing world of work and workers, the Government initiated a Digital Literacy Program (DLP) in 2016 with the aim to equip primary school students with digital devices and to train teachers in the delivery of digital learning.

Overall, approximately 81,000 teachers were trained under the program. However, the initiative was stopped in 2019 due to integrity challenges. We feel that what bedeviled this program be addressed so that it can be resumed. The future may have so much to do with digital learning and so the earlier we were prepared for it the better.

We must never forget that a well-remunerated teacher is a well-motivated teacher. Even if we trained, tooled and retooled teachers but failed to compensate them well, then we will still have demotivated teachers.

CBA 2021-2025

In the CBA 2017-2021, teachers got some salary increases that cushioned them against inflation. However, this only benefitted, to a larger extent, teachers in administrative positions, leaving those in classrooms with little to smile about.

In 2021, KNUT signed a CBA 2021-2025, which had other non-monetary aspects that were beneficial to teachers. We managed to review the CBA in respect to Clause 24 of the same to address the salary component. The 7-10 percent salary increment award we secured was welcome, although we had made a demand of a 60 percent improvement. We still look forward to having the teachers’ pay enhanced. A well-remunerated teacher will provide quality education, which is our main point of argument.

The education we want is one that will grow our learners holistically, so that we are able to have learners carry the ethos that positions our country as a leading example.

We need modernized education that will make us compete favorably with other countries of the world. We need education that will have an impact on the world labor market. It is only then that we shall truly meet global standards!

In this regard, we must appreciate the current Government’s interventions in ensuring that our dreams and aspirations in the education sector are met. The Government’s Education Charter encourages reduction of teachers’ workload, alleviation of teacher shortage, and mitigation of gaps witnessed in the take-off of CBC.

The Government has been able to contract over 45,000 teachers and employed 11,000 on PnP. This has addressed two key aspects. It has reduced teacher workload and alleviated shortages.

Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms

The formation of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER), which looked deeply into several issues in the sector and gave recommendations that laid critical grounds for review of several laws affecting education in the country, is a welcome move. This is an indicator that the current regime values, respects and holds education and educators with very high regard. With these interventions, we have no doubt education will thrive.

However, we are quick to note that there are still some gaps that require keen focus. The aspect of the cost of living, which is affecting all sectors of life, including education, has led to high costs of consumer commodities, thus also affecting utility bills. This calls for the need to review upwards, the capitation in schools. Although a review was implemented, more needs to be done since many of our schools are confronted with huge debts and penalties due to delayed remittances and irregular disbursement percentages that throw schools into economic chaos.

The plan to employ more teachers to a number that will completely address teacher shortages and reduce workload should be a continuous process, so that at all times, we maintain the required teacher establishment in all our schools.

The need to continuously review education policies that injure the education sector is imperative. The policy development procedures should be in such a way that they serve the purpose of improving service delivery, and not punish the people they intend to assist.

Moving forward, Kenya should embrace best practices standardized the world over. All stakeholders in the sector must be encouraged to work together for success. Policies should be developed so that they trigger creativity and innovation in the sector, and support sector plans for success. We must professionalize policy development and depoliticize management of education in Kenya. This will keep our education safe and secure for the current and future generations.

And this is what the 2023 World Teachers’ Day celebrations were all about; defining the teachers we need for the education we want,the global imperative to reverse teacher shortage.

Secretary General – KNUT-KE

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