Former President helped found our union, says Knut

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) officials yesterday visited former President Daniel arap Moi’s home to pay tribute to the man who was instrumental in the formation of their union.

In their tribute delivered to the family at Moi’s Kabarnet Gardens home, the Knut officials narrated the key role Moi played in the union’s formation before independence.
The officials expressed concern that the gains realised over the years may be eroded if deliberate interventions are not made to keep it alive in his memory.

The Moi connection

Moi’s connection with the teachers’ union dates back to 1954 when John ole Tomeo, then the Rift Valley Representative in the colonial parliament resigned. The Electoral College then selected Moi from a list of eight to fill the position.

After a successful persuasion by the then colonial era school inspector, Moses Mudavadi, father of Amani National Congress party leader, Musalia Mudavadi, Moi put down the classroom chalk to dive into politics.

The following year, 1955, Moi became one of the four African members of the Legislative Council (Legco), the precursor to today’s National Assembly.

Two years later, in 1957, he successfully moved a freelance motion in the House that the government should help teachers in Kenya to form one national body.

Before this, there were fragmented teachers unions such as the Nyanza African Teachers Union (NATU), Catholic African Teachers Association (CATA) both in Nyanza Province; Rift Valley African Teachers Association (RATA); Coast African Teachers Union (CATU) and the Central Province African Teachers Union called Kikuyu Teachers Union (KTU).

The government accepted the motion by Moi, prompting the then Minister for Education W.F. Coutts to invite all union leaders to a meeting in December 1957.
The meeting held at Pumwani D.E.B. School saw the birth of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).

An interim central executive committee was set up with Ignatius Mkok as President and Stephen J. Kioni as Secretary General.

The following year, around December 10, the committee convened the first annual conference at the Pumwani D.E.B. School. The Knut conference was ratified and the first national elections held.

Mr Samwel Ayany was elected the first president of the union and Kioni retained as first secretary general. Knut was officially registered on May 14, 1959 as a trade union.

This marked the beginning of a long struggle for teachers’ rights that was later marked by a series of strikes, work boycotts and running battles with the government.

More education gains under Moi were soon to be realised after he was appointed minister of education in the pre-ndependence government serving between 1960 and 1961.

And when Moi assumed presidency in 1978 the education sector in the country faced massive expansion with deliberate investments in both primary, secondary and university education that saw membership of Knut expand rapidly.

The union would later fight for the establishment of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC). During the third Knut national strike in November, 1966, the government agreed to establish the TSC.

The Commission was established through a bill that was tabled in parliament by the then Minister for Education Jeremiah Nyagah.

The TSC Act chapter 212 of the Laws of Kenya thus established the TSC as the sole employer for all teachers in public schools in Kenya.

The bill having been passed in 1966 the TSC became operational from July 1, 1967.

During the 2010 constitutional clamour, TSC became an independent Commission.

Speaking yesterday at Kabarnet Gardens, Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion termed as unfortunate the present efforts to kill the union.

Sossion said the current onslaught on Knut is an insult to Moi’s legacy and called on all teachers to stand firm to protect gains realised so far.

The union has lately been at loggerhead with TSC, an institution it fought so hard to be formed.

Dwindling numbers

With union members dwindling in numbers through massive walks outs to join the rival Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), Knut future is bleak.

The Knut officials praised Moi’s role in education.

“Moi will be remembered for his great role in education sector as a representative of the people and as president,” said Sossion.

“Mzee Moi enters in the annals of history as a great contributor to education development in Kenya,” stated the union.