By Vera Marion
The on-going teacher’s strike is one intriguing story. No one knows what the outcome will be. Yet it brings to mind few things; leadership, how we solve problems and the consequences of our actions.
The Teacher’s Service Commission (TSC) and Prof. Kaimenyi, the Cabinet Secretary for Education are leading by issuing threats to the teachers, which is not a quality of a leader. These are the characteristics of managers
1. Leadership is all about respect
As a leader you don’t show respect by issuing threats. It is not about you being at the top and the teachers being at the bottom of the pyramid. Rather you are there as a leader to improve and develop the lives of the people that are serving under you. And these are not just teachers but even the children that they are teaching. Issuing threats makes you look like egoistic bosses who regard teachers as machine parts that can be easily changed without a care of how these will affect them. Nothing can ever be achieved by this approach.
2. Leadership is all about being empathetic
Show empathy to the teachers; try and be in their shoes and treat them the way that you would want to be treated. Value and respect them and they will respect you in return. Why do you think they are throwing words back at you and not listening to what you tell them? Because you stopped valuing them and respecting them. They are your products and they borrow a leaf from you.
3. Leadership is all about accountability
You need to take full responsibility for your actions as well as their performance. When the performance of the teachers will be below par, the blame will not be on the teachers. The entire nation will be looking at TSC and the CS for education. As leaders, TSC and the CS need to ensure that the teachers have the resources that they need to enable the teachers be their best in all that they do. In this instance, all the teachers want is what is due to them. They asked, you heeded not, now they are demanding; you better listen.
The other issue is on our education system or how we were brought up. The endearing approach has been as follows; if you do not do this, this is what will happen- no dialogue between the two parties. Only threats. Unfortunately this is the system that most of us have gone through and the TSC and the CS for Education are no exception. They don’t know any other way to deal with the strike other than issue threats.
We are dealing with adults here and not children. You do not issue threats to adults; you sit down with them and talk. Communication is of essence so that both parties can know what the other is feeling and thinking.
Disagreements will arise, you will end up agreeing to disagree but at least you had a dialogue no matter how many they will be until a conclusive decision is reached.
TSC and the CS are looking at only one side of the coin-what the court has said about the strike-that it is not protected. I am not a lawyer but I believe (I stand corrected though) that should anything happen (harm) to the striking teachers then they are liable and they are not to blame anyone. The TSC and the CS quickly forget what the court also said that TSC needs to pay teachers their 50-60 percent salary increases. So why aren’t they talking about this?
Back to the issue of threats, should they make good their threats and sack the striking teachers, the problem will still persist and prevail. They may have hushed it for a while but it will rear its ugly head again. This is the scenario: they will sack the teachers on strike; hire new young ambitious teachers; they will work for some time; find that what they are offered is not satisfactory; they go to the streets; same time as always (third term-where the shoe pinches the most); TSC and the CS will issue threats…and the cycle will go on and on; a thorn in the flesh for TSC and CS for education. Meanwhile the quality of education deteriorates (if it hasn’t already).
Sacking the teachers is not a solution because many people will be affected by that decision. The candidate expecting to sit various examinations this year will have to adjust to new teachers which might take time and there is no time for the candidates to do that. If the schools perform poorly all fingers will be pointing at the TSC and the CS for Education for not pulling their act together.
The sacked teachers have families-you will be pushing these families to poverty. The sacked teachers have children in school. Their children may drop out of school because of lack of school fees and other school amenities. School drop outs will try to find a way of earning something (and in Kenya where papers matters the most and they don’t have the papers), they will find solace in drugs and alcohol and crime. And this now escalates to other ministries as well like Internal Security. And only because TSC made a poor decision and made good their threat to sack teachers.
The pay for teachers is a long overdue issue, yet TSC and the CS (both the current and the former) have been using the same techniques of dealing with the issue. They see a problem; they sweep it under the carpet and hope that all will be well. The problem still persists. The reason there is a stalemate on the on-going teacher’s strike is that their bosses are solving the issue with the same frame of mind as their predecessors; threats and threats and threats.
So, to TSC and Prof. Kaimenyi, change your frame of mind in dealing with this issue. Treat teachers as adults and not as children who need to be punished for speaking their mind and demanding what is rightfully theirs. Then maybe, just maybe, you will arrive at a win-win situation and you will have peace of mind because the spotlight is now on you and your ministry and what you will do to end this deadlock.
Be leaders, not managers.