Reading articles in the newspapers and listening and watching news on radio and television of teachers and their trade unions and others attacking the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) on various issues, one would easily conclude that it has turned rogue after it became an independent body. I beg to differ.
TSC was established through an Act of Parliament in 1967 as a body corporate with the mandate of registering, employing, remunerating, deploying, promoting and disciplining teachers. It was also to determine the standards of entry of teachers into the service.
Until 2010, when it was upgraded to an independent constitutional commission, TSC was under a lot of influence from government institutions and individuals, as well as other stakeholders, who sought and often obtained favours from it in a manner that may have been discriminatory to teachers.
One example is the subjective system of promotion of teachers on “merit” that was under the then-director of education and the chief inspector of schools. There were cases of teachers being promoted through this system yet they were undergoing disciplinary processes at TSC. That demoralised hardworking and disciplined teachers who did not benefit from these promotions.
Two, the criteria and qualifications for appointment of the chairman and commissioners by the Cabinet minister for Education was not provided in law. This was subject to abuse by ministers, who would occasionally dictate matters to the commissioners who were beholden to them. Besides, there was no vetting system for hiring commissioners.
Three, the Act did not specify the mode of appointment of the chief executive officer and his/her terms and conditions of service. Four, the influence of religious organisations as sponsors and teachers’ unions on matters such as appointment of principals and discipline of teachers was immense. Their interests were, in many cases, not in tandem with equity in the treatment of teachers.
When TSC joined the league of constitutional commissions, its mandate was not changed. However, the discrepancies and interferences were diminished through this change and the enactment of the TSC Act 2013 — to the benefit of teachers, students, parents and the government.
Reports to the effect that petitions are being made to the National Assembly to review the legal foundation of TSC is, therefore, of concern. The changes contemplated will lead to the split of the commission or, at best, its relapsing to the pre-2010 era, even though amending the Constitution to this end is arduous and unlikely to happen in the near future. In the unlikely event that it happens, the gains since 2010 may be obliterated.
TSC could have contributed to this unnecessary and unexpected agitation. Since 2010, it has duplicated or carried out functions that are better left to other departments of the ministry. The quality assurance function and in-service professional teacher development are among the contentious ones.
Furthermore, there is a trend in which, when a strike takes place in a school, TSC is asked to investigate it. Traditionally, this was a function of the Audit and the Quality Assurance departments of the ministry, which would then recommend to TSC any necessary action against the principal or teachers implicated in the organisation of the strike.
The logic was, it would not be right for TSC to investigate and interdict and prosecute suspects before its own disciplinary panel, who would then pass a verdict. An appeal against that would be heard and determined by the same commission since an external disciplinary tribunal no longer exists.
To me, TSC should be left to continue performing its constitutional mandate. But it may need to stop providing opportunities for litigation by stakeholders. For instance, the agitation against the Teacher Professional Development (TPD) programme could actually fizzle out if TSC sponsored the courses to be taught by the universities.
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