28 June 2013

Kenya: Uhuru Must End TSC Impunity


The teachers are on strike demanding the allowances they were promised in 1997. Though their eyes are set on target, one thing they should not forget is the crisis being created by the same government they are agitating against. The teachers should not be blinded to the fact that the same government has decided to turn the appointment Teachers Service Commission commissioners into a circus.

Last Tuesday, the selection panel re-advertised the position of chairperson and members of TSC - barely a month after Attorney General Githu Muigai advised against the move. Githu's advice came even as the High Court ruled that the panel should pick fresh names from the shortlisted candidates to be vetted by Parliament.

The fact that Githu was responding to a letter written to him by TSC secretary and CEO Gabriel Lengoiboni seeking advice on whether the posts should be re-advertised reveals more than meets the eye.

Lengoibon is meddling in the process. Going by reports in the print media, powerful forces in the Office of the President have been manipulating members of the selection panel chaired by Dr James Kamunge.

Kamunge's panel had recommended three names for the chair's position last October before the process stalled. The names were sent to retired President Kibaki and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga who were supposed to forward them to Parliament for approval.

Among those nominated for chairperson are current Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development CEO Dr Lydia Nzomo, director of policy in the Education ministry Kirago wa Magochi and top TSC official Simon Kavisi. The 10th Parliament however rejected Magochi and demanded that the name of Nzomo be brought to the House.

It is unfortunate that the power brokers at the office of the President are determined to shield Nzomo's appointment to head the teachers' body. Nzomo emerged first in the interviews after scoring a mean of 80.3 per cent, far ahead of the second candidate who had 73.3 per cent. Instead, they skipped the candidate who scored the highest and opted for the one who came third.

Those behind the circus might not know the consequences of delaying appointments of this crucial commission. The TSC serves more than 300,000 teachers and secretariat staff. This means ongoing operations at the commission are illegal. Only one commissioner--Cleophas Tirop who also faced similar challenges and whose appointment was made following a public outcry--is the only one in office.

Already, the Kenya National Union of Teachers has expressed concern over the absence of commissioners. Commissioners manage the teachers' payroll. Re-advertising the posts simply because some people at the Office of the President are not happy with the best candidate worsens the crisis. President Uhuru should not allow impunity to creep into his government. He must ensure the law is followed to the letter.

The High Court decision on the appointments of TSC commissioners should be respected even if the government decides to throw Githu's advice out of the window.

This is why teachers-even as they strike for their allowances--should not lose sight of the appointment of TSC commissioners. They must start demanding that justice and merit be observed.

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