The Suggestion by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) that teachers should have a code of conduct is long overdue
Teachers should take this in good faith. The proposal should be viewed from a much broader perspective including 1) what inspired the decision 2) how it will impact on the state of education 3) what is going to be done to ensure that the regulations are adhered to by the teachers and lastly 4) how the suggested regulations are going to be enforced and sustained.
That the teaching profession is noble is not in doubt. Given the importance of the profession, developing sound policies to safeguard it should be the desire of every progressive society. The Kenyan teacher is arguably one of the poorest paid and perhaps the most economically disadvantaged. This is evident in the numerous industrial strikes the teachers have taken part in virtually every year to demand for the improvement of their welfare by the TSC. Despite the regular strikes however, the teachers’ employer has not been able to come up with a conclusive remedy for their plight.
Consequently, the teachers have opted to engage in all manner of economic activities to supplement their meager wages-a scenario that has seen a big number of them taking more time doing their own businesses than undertake services for which they are employed.
The result of this has been perennial poor academic performance by a number of schools in different parts of the country. Though the lackluster academic record of some of those dismally performing schools is attributed to other factors, teacher absenteeism or technical appearance at school due to engagement elsewhere can be avoided. And there’s no better way of doing so than putting in place some tough rules for the teachers.
There are also other issues such as indiscipline and immoral behaviors among teachers which is manifest in having sexual relationships with pupils/students and which have in many occasions resulted in cases of unplanned pregnancies among the female learners. Cases of corporal punishment that have also ended up in serious injuries or deaths rightfully justify the need for stringent code of conduct to govern the day to-day-engagement of the membership of the teaching fraternity.
Indeed a number countries including those in Europe, Asia and America have detailed policies and legislation to oversight the teachers’ conduct. Though many of such countries have dwelt on the teachers’ moral behavior and dressing code, they have not expressly given the teachers permission to engage in activities that would put paid to their professionalism like indulging in other economic activities.
However, the tough rules cannot bear fruits in the absence of improved welfare for the teachers. If the profession is as noble as it is believed to be, then the TSC must jealously guard its employees’ welfare and interests.
In California State in the US, there is a teachers’ code of regulations. “A certificated person (teacher) shall not use for his/her own private gain or advantage the time, facilities, equipment, or supplies which is the property of his/her employer without the express or clearly implied permission of his/her employer” says a section of the code.
Closer home in Rwanda, the government has put in place a national policy on teacher development and management – a comprehensive document which provides a detailed guideline on the teacher training, remuneration and general welfare as well as the penalties against those entrusted with the implementation of the policy in the event of professional misconduct or negligence.
Indeed, a committed teacher, whose commitment is evident in the results his /her students obtain, definitely needs an equally generous employer to reciprocate their efforts. The commission must therefore up its game to ensure that teacher’s welfare is not defined by the salary he earns alone.
Even as it comes up with the code of conduct, TSC must review some of its policies and create a suitable environment for the teacher to work in and reward hard-working teachers with extra emoluments outside the salaries and loans.
Why for instance, is it necessary to buy cars for members of parliament who work “reasonably” for only three days a week and fail to do the same to a teacher who goes to school six days a week and works extra hours nearly every day?
If this and many other questions are answered, even the Kwale teachers who have threatened to disobey the proposed regulations would have a more positive view of the teaching profession. A contented servant will always undertake his duty with unrivaled passion hence impressive output.