By Lomut Lokwaria
Poor pay and working conditions are some of the key reasons teachers in West Pokot have quit teaching to seek a greener pasture in politics during the forthcoming general elections.
The massive exit of the teachers has caused a serious teachers’ deficit in the area.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) West Pokot branch Executive Secretary Martin Sembelo, who is also a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) representing Rift Valley, said that since 2013, the County has lost more than 400 teachers who have either joined the devolved unit, politics, retired or have died.
He noted that the trend is worrying as more teachers have exited the teaching profession because of the coming August general elections.
He further observed that many teachers are anticipating joining the county government while others were elected as leaders, a move that has caused understaffing.
“There is a great disparity in the county after the exit of many teachers. This is because our pay slips as teachers are in ICU (Intensive Care Unit),” Sembelo said.
He revealed that more than 100 teachers who vied for various political seats in the last elections but failed are now at home since they were required to resign from their jobs.
“We have encouraged the county government to employ qualified teachers. However, we also urge the national government to act with speed to save the situation by allocating enough funds to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to employ new and more teachers,” he said.
He said that parents from the County are forced to hire teachers to help their children who are in public schools for them to be able to compete with their brothers and sisters in private schools.
Sigor MP Peter Lochakapong, who is the former Kapenguria Boys high School Principal, noted that the delocalization policy has not helped much because the hardship nature of the areas does not favor teachers from outside the County.
“The poor terrain, harsh climatic conditions and insecurity is a threat to new teachers. A teacher from Bungoma County where there are no sharp hills cannot teach in West Pokot County because he or she is not used to rough terrains. That’s what makes most teachers unmotivated to work,” he said.
He noted that most of the teachers transferred to West Pokot county have resigned and resorted to farming as the county grapples with shortage of teachers resulting in poor performance both at primary and secondary schools.
Lochakapong urged the TSC to visit the County and assess the situation before transferring teachers frequently to hard ship zones.
“Most teachers who move from comfort zones to hardship areas in West Pokot surrender or resign because they are not physically fit to descend and ascend hilly areas where schools are situated,” he said.
He added: “Teachers who are used to the weather and terrain in West Pokot County should be left to teach in places where they know the challenges that befall them because they are used to the challenges.”
The County TSC Director Bernard Kimachasi noted that the County has a deficit of 2000 in primary schools and 800 in secondary schools.
“The shortage of teachers is experienced countrywide. Therefore, all counties need more teachers.” He concluded.