Tribulations of experienced teachers employed by TSC as JSS interns

Junior Secondary School teachers

Junior Secondary School teachers protest on the streets of Kakamega town demanding better terms of employment for interns.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

In 2015, Edna Kamuren from Tenges in Baringo Central left her work as a laboratory technician at Kabarnet Boys High School and enrolled for a Bachelor of Education in Arts at Kisii University.

The motivation behind the decision was to improve her life and that of her three children.

The 40-year-old had earlier graduated with a Diploma from the Eldoret Polytechnic, where she pursued Analytical Chemistry, a course that earned her employment at Kabarnet Boys High School for more than 13 years.

She joined Kisii University, where she studied Kiswahili and Christian Religious Education.

“I was very optimistic that my future would be bright by changing my career, from a laboratory technician to a secondary school tutor, but I didn’t quit my work,” she tells Nation.Africa.

She would report to the school during the day and attend classes in the evening. The salary would go to her school fees, but it was not easy though, she says.

“With all the struggles of work, school, and taking care of my three children, I managed to graduate in 2018,” she says.

She continued working as a technician after she applied for jobs at several schools without success until 2022 when the government announced opportunities for junior secondary school teachers, and she gave it a shot. She was elated this would change her life for the better if she got enlisted, she reveals.

Despite applying for employment on permanent and pensionable terms, she received feedback that she had been employed as an intern JSS teacher, which took her aback since some fresh graduates were employed on permanent terms.

She, however, was comforted by the employment letter, which indicated that she would be confirmed after a year.

The year would soon be over, only for the government to fail to honour its promise, meaning she and others in her fate would continue working on internship terms.

She now regrets quitting her well-paying job as a lab technician to pursue teaching.

“The Sh17,000 monthly earnings are inadequate to cater to my needs and my children," said Ms Kamuren, who has since withdrawn her three children from a private school for a public school.

Like many other JSS teachers in her shoes, she wonders what criteria were applied to employ recent graduates on Permanent and pensionable terms while denying the experienced teachers the same.

“I am so discouraged because I was looking for ‘greener pasture’ as a secondary school teacher after quitting my job as a lab technician. I had big dreams for my children, and had so much hope in my employer, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), to give me a bright future,” she says.

She had to secure a loan to pay school fees, now deducted from her meagre earnings.

“As a lab technician, I earned more. But I wanted a better future, and I felt I needed to go back to school. I am appealing to the government to just honour its promise and confirm us on permanent employment because we are suffering,” she said.

She reveals that due to the shortage of teachers, some have to teach subjects they never studied in university, implying a workload for the underpaid intern teachers.

Specialised in CRE and Kiswahili

“Though I specialised in CRE and Kiswahili, I teach other subjects that I never studied at the university because of a shortage of teachers. It is very unfair because the workload and roles are shared equally with those on PnP,” she says.

It is the reason intern teachers have been staging protests in the country demanding confirmation on PnP terms.

Joan Toroitich from Karne in Baringo, a mother of two, graduated in 2016 after pursuing a Bachelor of Arts at Mount Kenya University.

She has resorted to doing menial jobs during weekends to make ends meet.

Like Ms Kamuren, she struggled to complete her university education, having come from a humble background.

At some point, she deferred her studies due to school fees challenges. Besides her two children, she has younger siblings looking up to her, all depending on her paltry Sh17,000.

She spends more than Sh250 daily on her bus fare to school, hence her decision to supplement her income through menial work over the weekends.

“Most of those who were employed graduated from the university recently. Why didn’t they consider us who graduated earlier? What criteria was used to employ us as interns because this is very unfair,” she told Nation.Africa.

She, too, points at the understaffing challenge that has presented a heavy workload on JSS teachers, regardless of their employment terms.

“We have two classes, and one has 40 lessons per week, meaning I have eight lessons per day. There is no time to rest, we work from morning to evening,” she states. I am supposed to teach English and Literature, but I have to take other subjects too, which I didn’t study in university because there is a shortage of teachers,” she notes.

“Such a workload and so little pay is very demoralising,” she states.

During protests in Kabarnet Town last week, JSS intern teacher Nicholas Keror took issue with TSC’s argument that the internship programme was meant to equip them with skills and experience.

“What experience do they want us to have when some of us here graduated in 2015 and have been teaching since then in several schools under the Board of Management? We have served as intern teachers for junior secondary for one and half years and we want the government to honour its promise and employ us on permanent terms. You cannot promise us heaven and deliver hell,” he protested.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Baringo branch executive secretary Zacharia Nyomboi said JSS intern teachers have gone through challenges, with some unable to cater to their families.

“What type of internship is this, and yet you have given the same job to someone who graduated a year ago? Where is the fairness here?” posed Nyomboi.

Kuppet has asked the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (KUPPET) to investigate TSC and release a report on how many teachers have been employed in the last two years permanently.

He took issue with Members of Parliament for staying silent on the matter.

“They (legislators) are silent yet they are aware that JSS children in public schools are not learning. It is not business as usual unless the government is ready to waste a generation. The government must fund TSC to employ JSS teachers on permanent and pensionable terms,” added Nyomboi.