Ezekiel Odhiambo retires as in 24 months. He wonders why he should be forced to enroll in the Teacher Professional Development (TPD) program that the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) recently introduced.
In the program, it will take five years for teachers to complete a module and there are six modules in total. Those who defy the new directive risk being made redundant or missing a promotion.
But Odhiambo, a school principal, says he cannot take such pressure at his age, and that he “would rather quit than die”.
“If TSC pushes me so hard to enroll in modular training, I will ask for early retirement. I’m not ready to be mentally tormented, ”he says.
Odhiambo says that teachers at P1 were initially encouraged to enroll in diplomas, and after a majority did so, the TSC is now offering more training and subtly spreading the message that the diploma is not most important. Teachers are expected to pay 6,000 Sh for each module and they will study during school holidays.
“As a teacher, I have been under enough stress and I will not let myself be sent to an untimely grave by training that does not impact my career. I am going to resign, ”says Odhiambo.
He says teachers have a high volume of work, with a high enrollment rate of learners, but there is a shortage of teachers to provide quality education. Odhiambo blames TSC policies such as PDT and assessments, which he says contribute to teacher burnout.
“We are assessed quarterly and expect data to be entered via the Internet, but what happens to schools without the Internet and computers? How often are we going to visit cyber? Asks the professor.
His school, for example, does not have a single computer or Internet access. In 2017, criminals broke into the school, killed a guard and stole two laptops, a projector and 33 digital devices for the students.
“Sometimes I use my cell phone to share reports with the ministry, but no one seems to understand in case there is a problem with network connectivity. It is unfortunate that despite the fact that CBC is a good program, learners are not getting 100% of what was intended because we are wasting time going online, ”says Odhiambo.
“Making up for a single missed lesson is no joke.”
When asked if he was stressed by the workload, the teacher asked and replied, “Being a teacher now is very stressful. But luckily for me, I have a fallback plan: my family is with me, I go to church, and I talk to friends because I don’t want stress to take its toll on me.
He remembers a teacher at his school who committed suicide two years ago after suffering from depression.
“It is unfortunate that a teacher who worked under me started to abuse alcohol after requesting a transfer. He had financial problems, coupled with stress at work, ”explains Odhiambo.
According to him, teachers’ problems are currently not being addressed after the TSC weakened the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut). Last year, the employer urged teachers to quit the union.
To prevent mental illness among teachers, Odhiambo says TSC should provide counseling services.
Odhiambo’s frustrations reflect the challenges facing hundreds of teachers across the country.
Bochaberi Nyakundi, a teacher in Nairobi, says she is passionate about changing behavior among teachers and learners.
Some of the signs teachers show are withdrawal, irritability, sleep at any break, not sharing opinions at meetings, regular lateness, truancy, and dropping out of school. during classes.
Mental health problems occur at home and at school, she says.
She says home issues are financial stress and dysfunctional families, marital issues, while school issues are work related – for example the CBC implementation which is currently facing a lack of resources which affects learning.
“CBC is a problem. The teachers do not have knowledge of the school curriculum and they lack the resources, but we are told not to impose a burden on parents, ”says Nyakundi.
Learners, on the other hand, are affected by poverty and dysfunctional families.
“Would you imagine a child telling you that ‘my mother didn’t give me lunch, but gave me a plate’? This means that the child must be given food, ”she said.
Sometimes she is forced to intervene by talking to parents.
“I am sometimes emotionally exhausted when dealing with children’s mental issues. What would you do if a grade 2 student told you that he doesn’t like this man, who visits their house and sits on his father’s bed, and begs you to tell his mother to stop?
Victoria Mulindi, head of guidance and counseling at Alliance High School, says a number of teachers with mental health problems resort to heavy drinking.
Mulindi says that although TSC has policies in place on mental health, where teachers with problems are linked to counselors, there is a need to raise more awareness about the availability of mental support, as teacher involvement is weak.
“Teachers fear going to TSC for help, regardless of the availability of the service. They tend to imagine how the employer considers them, depending on their status, ”explains the English teacher.
She says she suffered from anxiety and pressure on performance. But with better structures at Alliance High School, she was linked to therapists for care.
At Alliance, teachers participate in a debriefing session once a month, during which they share the challenges they face, express themselves, encourage and support each other.
The school also has social assistance to support teachers with financial constraints.
“Mental health issues are real, let teachers not go into denial and think they are for other people. Acceptance is the first step towards their mental stability, ”advises Mulindi.
Dr Edith Kamaru Kwobah, consultant psychiatrist at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, says that if a teacher is anxious, sad and unenthusiastic about the work they are doing, it will affect their teaching and their relationship with learners.
“Someone who has anger issues can easily hurt a child they are teaching. A sick teacher is likely to be negative towards a learner because he spends most of the time with learners more than anyone else, ”explains the doctor who is also a professor at Moi and Kabarak universities.
She says children who refuse to go to school may be in distress, depending on how they are treated by a teacher.
“We expect a child to receive support from his teachers, but when he complains about a teacher and even refuses to go to school, it can mean he is stressed, anxious and depressed. , a problem that needs immediate attention, ”says Kwobah.
The expert says that in order to manage the mental health of teachers and learners, there should be a strong support system at home and at school.
Teachers, she adds, need to be mindful of mental health and seek solutions.
“A teacher needs to know if he is emotionally stressed and to ask for help,” advises the specialist.