Kakamega

By Collins Chibole.

At the sunrise of the teaching profession, the teachers of Kenya were subjected to different terms and conditions of service by the many employers they belonged to.

This kept them totally ignorant as regards to their rights and therefore were seriously exploited by their masters.In 1934 James Gichuru and Eluid Mathu formed Kenya African Teachers Union (KATU) which later fizzled away because it was very difficult to organize an effective national organization of workers as they lacked a proper strategy to carry out a nationwide recruitment of members.

The late Dianiel Arap Moi

They started forming sectional Teachers Organizations based on denominations or Provinces which couldn’t work because teachers couldn’t correspond with their counterparts in other Provinces.

The Second Fiery Knut Secretary General, the late Ambrose Adongo

 In 1955, one of the teacher’s leaders from Rift Valley, the late Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, who later became the Second President of Kenya, was elected to the Legislative Council (Legico) and moved a freelance motion in the house in 1957 that the Government should help the teachers of this country to form one national body that can represent their interests.

And on December 10, 1958, The First National elections were held and Stephen Kioni was elected the First Secretary General and on May 14, 1959, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) was officially registered as a Trade Union.

Kioni worked without salary until when the World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession (WCOTP) under the catholic sponsorship in Rome accepted to support the union by paying its executives before the Union began realizing some money from members through a check-off system.

The National Executive Council, met and issued the first policy demands, which included; a single employer for all teachers, unified terms and conditions of service, free pension for all teachers, provision for negotiating machinery, pay rise for all teachers in all grades, responsibility allowance for all posts of responsibility and the abolition of the colonial code of discipline.

The Late David Outa – Knut SG (2010 -2013)

 The government appointed The Lawrence Sagini Commission to look into the demands of Knut but its recommendations were rejected by Knut.  The Teachers Salaries Commission was appointed and its recommendations were also rejected. Knut resolved to stage token strikes but the colonial government did not yield to the demands.

Kioni declared a national strike which went on for almost a month and yielded fruits. In 1969, Knut staged its fourth strike to push Education Minister to implement the TSRC recommendations which was successful. Kioni’s term as Knut secretary-general ended the same year after he was jailed. The period had marked a strong beginning of Knut.

Ambrose Adeya Adongo who took over as secretary general in 1970, remains the father Knut has never had. His 30-year term remains the longest by a single secretary-general to date.

The current Knut boss Wilson Sossion

He is best remembered for his firm, fiery and unwavering leadership. It was he who led the 1997 teachers’ strike, which remains the most memorable to date, both for its intensity and the lasting impact it had.

Many of the strikes that have followed since have had something to do with pushing the government to implement one aspect or another of the 300 per cent pay increase deal that Mr. Adongo had negotiated in 1997 on behalf of teachers.

Mr Adongo died in March 2001 and was replaced by Francis Ng’ang’a. Ng’ang’a was a vocal person who would not hesitate to push across Knut’s perspective on policy issues on education, he kept the visibility of the union high. Like his predecessor. He often negotiated with the government.

He knew how and when to stage a strike, either before exams or general elections. He was the founding President of All African Teachers Organisation (AATO).

Mr Adongo died in March 2001 and was replaced by Francis Ng’ang’a. Ng’ang’a was a vocal person who would not hesitate to push across Knut’s perspective on policy issues on education, he kept the visibility of the union high. Like his predecessor. He often negotiated with the government. 

Through his stewardship, Knut organised a nationwide strike to push the government to renew its commitment to the 1997 agreement and it was agreed that the Government would spread the increments through 10 years and reviewed in 2003 to six years.

 Ng’ang’a resigned in 2008, and Lawrence Majali took over and through a revolution, he was replaced by David Okuta in 2010. His charisma endeared him not only to teachers, but also the government of President Mwai Kibaki, who awarded him the Order of the Burning Spear on December 12, 2012, during Jamhuri Day celebrations in Nairobi.

Okuta’s promising leadership was, however, cut short when he died on April 2, 2013. He was replaced by Mudzo Nzili. The secret behind the success of the above listed KNUT bosses is that none of them aligned to political affiliations.

He later organized a ‘father of all strikes’ that elated his name further. However, in 2017 after he was nominated by ODM to the National Assembly to advocate for the teacher’s rights in the assembly, a splinter group emerged that almost dethroned him.

 In 2013, a tough talking Knut Chairman Wilson Sossion became the face of Knut as the union called teachers to strike on June 24, 2013 and was later elected as the secretary general and Mudzo Nzili as the chairman.

He later organized a ‘father of all strikes’ that elated his name further. However, in 2017 after he was nominated by ODM to the National Assembly to advocate for the teacher’s rights in the assembly, a splinter group emerged that almost dethroned him.

 However due to his strong influence and fearless fight for teachers rights which included the fight against delocalization of teachers, advocating  for salary increase, good working conditions for  teachers and protection of teachers working in insecure and hardship areas, Sossion has won the hearts of many teachers.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) has a history of producing vibrant, courageous, principled, disciplined and objected politicians and activists in Kenya; a positive face of the negative Kenyan politics.

Wilson Sossion’s decision to be part of Kenyans politics while still in office seems to be opening ways for the fall of Knut. His position as an MP in the handshake government denies him the opportunity to boldly rise and fight against the same government over teachers rights.

Cotu boss Francis Atwoli

Politics is the smoke that pollutes the otherwise fresh air of the greatest trade union in Kenya. It’s not just Knut but also other trade unions including Kuppet headed by Emuhaya MP Omboko Milemba, Kenya National Union of Nurses union (Knun) under Seth Panyako and the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) headed by Francis Atwoli whose bosses are now dancing graciously to the rhythm of the dirty Kenyan politics.  

Knut delegates conference

It’s not just at the top leadership of Knut, even at branch levels. The regional leaders seems to have forgotten their roles of advocating for the teachers rights and instead they have started inhaling the political smoke as either as campaigners or aspirants of various seats. It’s great to note that Knut has produced great leaders in Kenyan politics but it’s for the egocentric and selfish motives of Knut executives that is bringing the union to its knees.

 Trade unions success requires objectivity and aligning to political affiliations is as harmful as killing the trade union from within.

Collins Chibole is a MBA holder and a radio presenter at Lubao FM

Ends

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