More than 200 teachers from schools in North-Eastern on August 29, 2023, held a protest at the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) headquarters in Upper Hill, Nairobi demanding to be transferred.
The teachers vowed never to return to their posts citing discrimination by locals, insecurity and poor working conditions.
“We can’t work and deliver if we have to look over our shoulders all the time. It is impossible to deliver. We can’t work knowing that death is always lurking,” said Anita Chepng'eno, a teacher in Mandera. She said that even though she likes her job, the working environment is not conducive.
For Jackson Waswa, a primary school teacher who survived an attack by militants that claimed the lives of some of his colleagues, all he wants from his employer is a transfer from his current post. The attack on July 14 lasted from midnight to dawn, he said.
That night, he recalled, they had just had dinner when the militants descended on them and killed three policemen and a teacher who was his roommate.
Three weeks before the incident, the terrorists had threatened to attack. They informed the police and their employer, but their concerns were discredited and dismissed, he said. Days later, they were attacked.
“Restless and helpless, we were at the mercy of the attackers. I survived by sheer luck,” he told the Nation.
‘I can’t cheat death twice’
“I urge the TSC to transfer me out of this region. That’s the only option I have. I’m sure I can’t cheat death twice. Let them take other measures, but I cannot go back to Garissa,” said Mr Waswa.
Working far from their home counties, the teachers said they face a lot of intimidation from the locals. Some of the colleagues he works with in the same region, said Mr Nathaniel Kiplagat, are so traumatised that they “cannot fulfil our mandate as teachers under such conditions”.
He said he was unwilling to return to a region where he has worked for the past year and a half.
“We’ve come here but we’ve been denied entry and an audience. We want to send a message to our employer that we have survived the worst in this country and we are not ready to go back,” he said at the gate of his employer’s headquarters, vowing to remain there until their request is responded to.
Mr Peter Mkoyane said life in the North East was already unbearable, and the situation was being made worse by an “employer who never listens and locals who threaten us every day”.
“We have been struck off the system for deserting. We escaped death. But we have been removed from the system and we don’t know if we will get our salaries,” said Mr Mkoyane.
He alleged that shopkeepers and other traders have been instructed by the militants not to sell them goods or services.
Openly discriminated against
His colleague, Diana Nthenya, said non-locals were treated as outsiders and openly discriminated against.
“They usually sell to us non-locals at exorbitant prices. Remember, we’re only paid Sh29,000,” she said, adding that the locals seem to be subtly telling them to leave their land.
“I have to send my students to the shop to buy the items at the locals’ prices,” said Ms Nthenya.
The teachers further accused their respective unions of remaining silent as they continued to suffer.