Kenya: Teacher deaths raise concerns over system of conflict area postings

The killing of two teachers has led to union calls on the government to act now to avoid more deaths of teachers posted to areas affected by conflict and violence.

Last week, the north-east region of Mandera in Kenya was shocked by the killing of two teachers by militants of the Islamist terror group, Al-Shabaab. The deaths led to a call by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) that the government increase security for teachers and school communities in the region. The area, at the border to Somalia and Ethiopia, also suffers from frequent school closures due to bandit attacks.

“The KNUT has, on a number of occasions, proposed a raft of measures that would assist in containing the insecurity in Mandera, Wajir, and Carissa counties, but the authorities have not heeded the union's call,” said Wilson Sossion, secretary general of the KNUT. The escalating insecurity is disrupting learning and teaching in the affected areas and is causing a shortage of teachers, who “resist being posted, transferred or deployed to the north-eastern region”, he said.

Sossion said the Kenyan government has a duty to ensure the security of teachers in the region, by adopting measures such as those recommended by UNESCO that “teachers should be recruited in local communities to reduce incidents of insecurity, workplace bullying, and intimidation among other ills committed against non-locals”. The KNUT also highlights the effect of terror on the career prospects of teachers and the quality of education. Teachers are “demotivated and demoralised, which in turn affects teaching quality”, reversing gains achieved over a long period of time, he said.

The KNUT has proposed solutions that include the recruitment of local teachers, and the immediate removal of non-locals in the north-eastern region to safer areas. It also says the government should propose appropriate measures and guidelines to ensure the safety of practicing teachers.

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