That the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) secretary-general Wilson Sossion never shies from a good fight is no secret.
He has an assortment of weapons but the arsenal that shot him into the limelight is his tongue.
However, the nominated MP is losing his effectiveness and grip on knut. Before he was nominated, whenever he spoke, the education sector players stopped and listened. He has steered the Kenya National Union of Teachers leadership for about nine years now.
The 50-year-old unionist has been the amplified voice of teachers.
With a lean and wiry stature that makes him look younger than his actual age, the unionist now suffers a lack of total support from the more than 200,000 union members because of threats imposed by the Teachers Service Commission.
Soon after signing the 2017-21 collective bargaining agreement, it has become increasingly hard for the union to negotiate matters affecting teachers’ welfare. Those familiar with the development note that the TSC and the Education ministry have clipped the union through intimidation. This has slowly threatened teachers from defying matters they feel are unfair to them.
The union was known to rally all its members whenever TSC decisions did not augur well with its members. Those days seem to be long gone. Knut’s calls to have members defy their employer is now met with tough disciplinary measures such as interdiction. This has cowed teachers from honoring calls to protest against controversial rules or policies formulated by the TSC.
Sossion, the once abrasive union boss who breathed fire, has been reduced to a toothless dog that barks but cannot bite and even when it bites does not hurt. He remains a household name with firmness but is no longer able to pull enough support from his members.
The graduate of Egerton University first came into the limelight as a regional union official in Bomet on April 27, 2001.
In 2007, Sossion won the seat for second vice national chairman and went on to be elected Knut first vice national chairman, before being elected as the union’s chairman in 2011. His rise to national leadership is attributed to his eloquent way of articulating issues.
Top among the directives opposed by the union are teacher performance appraisal and development tools, performance contracting that replaced classroom registers and teacher work plan in assessing how well they teach.
Calls to boycott the documents have not been successful to date. Others are the promotion of teachers who have attained higher academic qualifications, delocalisation policy and calls to withdraw the teacher professional modules.
Numerous calls against them have fallen on deaf ears. More 10,000 school heads have been transferred under the delocalisation policy. Enraged by the transfers, the union declared it would call for a national strike on September 1 last year, but that also failed to materialize.
In May, Sossion and Education CS George Magoha locked horns over the new curriculum. The union ordered teachers to ignore the new curriculum and revert to the 8-4-4 system. Teachers have yet to honour this.
Some 280 teachers who boycotted training on the new curriculum were suspended. Despite Knut successfully securing court orders to stop the interdiction, the employer has yet to comply.