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Daily Nation : February 28th 2014
DAILY NATION Friday February 28, 2014 Opinion 13 EDUCATION | Wilson Sossion Knut is ready for unions’ merger as it’s a reality bound to benefit all teachers Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) is one of those unfortunate situations that should not be happening. But first, let us understand T how the whole idea behind merging our two unions came about. In January, we were invited to Lusaka, Zambia, by Education International, a global federation of teachers’ trade unions to discuss the results of a major study on the impact of fragmentation of teachers’ trade unions in the management of education in Africa. The study was conducted in six African countries, namely, Benin, Botswana, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Zambia, and its conclusion was clear: In the different corners of the continent, the quality of education in general and the welfare of teachers in particular were being hurt by the splintering of teachers’ unions. Listen to this: “One of the major weaknesses of the African trade union movement is the lack of union unity. In most francophone African countries, proliferation and fragmentation of trade unions have been rife. In most cases, the relationship among these Mr Sossion: “We will not allow self-interest to derail our quest for the welfare of teachers.” unions is characterised by competition and acrimony. These excessive forms of proliferation are rarely inspired by the true principles of freedom of association and trade union pluralism. The indiscriminate formation of unrepresentative and ineffective unions has become the source of division, confusion, and abuse on the trade union scene in Africa.” One would think this statement was specifically referring to Kenya and the relationship between Knut and Kuppet, if you remember what happened last year when teachers went on strike to demand better terms of service. The government took full advantage of the fragmented representation and it is only by the grace of God that we managed to wrench from the he emerging controversy over the proposed merger between the employer the concessions we finally got. In Lusaka, I represented Knut while Kuppet chairman Omboko Milemba was at the meeting for his union and we both signed the Lusaka Declaration that bound us to the merger process, beginning with the drafting of a unity matrix that clearly spelt out the essential steps to the merger within four months. As we speak, unions in Botswana and Zambia are in the final stages of merging, and so are those in Benin, Senegal, and Côte d’Ivoire. On the other hand, in places like Uganda and Tanzania, where the unions have already merged, the strength of their advocacy is palpable and government just cannot ignore them in the formulation and implementation of key policies affecting the education sector. Indeed, in countries such as South Africa, the ruling African National Congress itself helped unite different unions to create the South African Democratic Teachers Union in 1990, bringing together teachers and other school workers. Kenya cannot ignore this. Teachers across the national spread of staffrooms are already talking about it, and it is no longer about Knut or Kuppet. It is a movement whose time has come. The Education International study indicts all of us union leaders when trying to explain the splintering that bedevils our sector. “The study identified that the quest for influence associated with union leadership is one of the important factors that explains trade union fragmentation in the education sector in Kenya. It has been argued that the personal ambitions and self-interest of some union leaders are sometimes allowed to compromise trade union unity in the education sector. Ambitious union members and sometimes even leaders at a certain level who fail in their leadership bid are said to have been led by such ambitions and selfish interest to break away and form splinter unions,” the report says. For us in Knut, the issues here are as clear as day and night: We will not allow selfinterest or even instigation from various quarters in government to derail our quest for optimal terms and conditions of service for our teachers. For this is central to ensuring quality education for our children. To our brothers in Kuppet, we want to assure them that the merger can happen in a fair and equitable manner that ensures a win-win outcome for all the parties involved. Mr Sossion is the Knut Secretary-General. Street children taking a nap in Nakuru IN THE DARK. The residents of Bondeni in Ngong, HEALTH | Geoffrey Kamadi previously thought. Research shows that malnutrition might be responsible for health problems previously not associated with the condition. There is reason to believe that hypertension and certain kinds of cancers are caused by malnutrition. Recent studies on the effects of the Dutch famine of the Second World War, for instance, indicate that children conceived during the period had a two-fold increased risk of developing schizophrenia. These studies are consistent with those that have been following children born during the Chinese famine of 1960. These findings suggest that some traits acquired as a result of malnutrition in pregnancy and early childhood may pass to adulthood. Prof Onesmo ole MoiYoi —a prominent Kenyan scientist —has proclaimed that the leading cause of Aids in not HIV but malnutrition. The situation could be critical. Accord- ing to the Lancet series on maternal and child health and nutrition data released on February 1, this year, Kenya might not meet Millennium Development Goal Four on reducing infant and child mortality by two-thirds come 2015 due to malnutrition. The series states that no significant change in the nutritional status of chil- More funds needed to address malnutrition I t is only now becoming clear that problems associated with malnutrition might be much bigger than Research shows that malnutrition might be responsible for health problems previously not associated with the condition such as hypertension and cancer. dren under five years has been observed since 1998. One-third of Kenyan children are stunted, which translates to 2.1 million children under five. Out of 122,000 deaths of children under five in Kenya every year, malnutrition is the underlying cause of at least a third or 40,000 deaths. And the cost of malnutrition is estimated to reach a whopping Sh3.2 trillion, with 527,000 lives lost in the next two decades. The country finds itself in a unique and undesirable position of having to contend with yet another serious problem that causes stunting: Aflatoxin contamination. According to the International Livestock Research Institute, Kenya is regarded as one of the hotspots for aflatoxin, with what is believed to be the highest incident of acute toxicity ever documented. There is no gainsaying the fact that nu- trition for mother and child is paramount for a healthy nation. However, this goal is difficult to achieve as Kenya’s antenatal clinic visits during pregnancy are only 47 per cent. On the other hand, it is encouraging to note that the government, through the Nutrition Action Plan, is trying to address the issue. The East African Grain Council (EAGC) and the then Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation launched the EAGC Staple Food Cook Book in March last year, geared towards improving nutrition using staple crops. The unveiling of the African Plant Breeding Academy in Nairobi in early December last year offers yet another glimmer of hope in fighting malnutrition using orphaned African food crops. The success of addressing nutrition issues in Kenya depends on funding. According to sources, Sh69 billion is required over five years to provide solutions to Kenya’s nutritional challenges based on the Nutrition Action Plan. Previous allocations, such as in the 2012/ 2013 budget, have met only 7 per cent of the total amount required to implement the plan. Mr Kamadi is a consultant with Media 101 Communications, which specialises in science and development reporting: (firstname.lastname@example.org) on Nairobi’s southern outskirts, have been getting a rather raw deal from Kenya Power, with the area having become synonymous with blackouts, moans Daniel Njoroge. On being informed about a power failure, he adds, technicians are always sent to the area to rectify the problem, but after a day or two, it occurs again. Early this week, they had a power failure that lasted three days. “Can the engineer-in-charge come up with a permanent solution to this problem?” His contact is email@example.com. OPPOSING VIEWS. Calling homosexuality “an abomination that is forbidden in the Bible and the Koran” and also in the tradition African moral teachings, Thomas Yebei says he simply cannot understand the Western countries’ obsession with it. Similarly, he cannot understand their rabid opposition to polygamy, “which is largely practised in Africa,” but is seen in the West as “backward and having no place in the modern world”. His recommendation? “The West should stay with its homosexuality as we remain with our polygamy.” His contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. POVERTY OF LEADERSHIP. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney’s new weekly salary of an equivalent of Sh42 million, Daniel Njaga says, confirms just how “very poor we Kenyans are”. What a footballer in the UK Premier League earns, he explains, can underwrite the Kenyan President’s pay for a whole two years. “This is so, yet our leaders and their Ugandan counterparts are more concerned with homosexuality and miniskirts. Talk of poverty of leadership or is it leadership of poverty?” His contact is daniel.njaga@gmail. Have a leading day, won’t you! E-mail: email@example.com or write to Watchman, POB 49010, Nairobi 00100. Fax 2213946. THE CUTTING EDGE BY THE WATCHMAN EXPENSIVE CHANGE. The introduction of new motor vehicle number plates with “advanced security features” was long overdue, says Joe Wainaina. However, Joe is not amused about the decision to require all vehicle owners to pay Sh2,000 for the number plate. “This is exploiting the vehicle owners, who paid for the existing plates.” But even if the people will be willing to buy the new plates, he is not convinced that the “current inefficient bureaucracy” can achieve this by December. His contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. NOTHING TO CELEBRATE. The Tanzanian au- thorities’ announcement that Kenyan tour operators will now be allowed to drop off tourists in one of the towns near the border is nothing to celebrate, says James Makau Nzioka. This, he adds, will not alter the skewed arrangement in favour of Tanzanian operators. “Their drivers are allowed to go into our national reserves and parks and even drive tourists to the airports. Why the double standards? We should just continue taking the visitors to the border. His contact is email@example.com. MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE. While appreciating the great service to the poor that the government has done by providing free primary school education, Alnashir Walji is pained to note that there are still hordes of destitute children begging for alms in the streets of Nairobi and other big towns. He wishes the authorities and child welfare organisations could get these young people off the streets, rehabilitate and enrol them in schools to avoid swelling the numbers of illiterates in the country. His contact is firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 27th 2014
March 1st 2014