A male teacher in Vihiga County was last month interdicted after allegedly drugging female students as he prepared a party for them after their national examinations.
The teacher at Moi Girls High School Vokoli in Sabatia constituency is said to have given some students alcohol during a party to mark end of exams.
Though the problem of alcoholism in the teaching fraternity is grudgingly acknowledged, there has never been a comprehensive study on its effects and its threat is largely anecdotal. Statistics indicate more and more teachers are abusing alcohol. A 2009 Teachers Service Commission baseline survey established that 67.41 per cent of teachers in Kenya abuse alcohol.
Several teachers interviewed by The Counties on the sidelines of the recent Knut annual delegates conference, paint a grim picture in the counties. Mark Ikiara from Meru says that the problem is rife in the arid areas of Igembe where some teachers routinely go to school drunk.
“Absenteeism is very common and some teachers actually report to drinking dens in the morning instead of their school,” says this delegate. According to Ikiara, many KNUT school representatives (shop stewards) often intervene and talk to their colleagues who have hit the bottle rather too hard before matters are noticed by the school authorities and disciplinary action taken.
Jenny Ngesa, a delegate from Homa Bay who also doubles up as a head teacher admitted that she has dealt with alcoholism amongst her staff.
“It has been getting worse with time and I particularly remember one teacher who gave a real challenge,” she says. After giving this man several verbal warnings she eventually wrote him a formal letter. “He mended his ways for a few weeks but come the next pay day, he disappeared from school as was his custom,” she says. Ms Ngesa adds that when she raised the matter with the local education officials, their counsel was that she was best placed to deal with it. “I tried peer counseling using my senior teachers and even sent a school committee member to warn but it did not yield any results,” she says.
Meanwhile the pupils could see the sorry state that this teacher had descend into, lying by the roadsides and picking quarrels with liquor sellers in the neighbourhood. “The worst effects of alcoholism among teachers are when society starts condemning everybody in a staffroom on account of one wayward individual,” she says.
Ms Ngesa eventually solved the problem creatively by incorporating the help of the teacher’s father- in- law.
“Whereas he had ignored his own parents’ intervention, it was different matter when his father-in-law came to school to beseech him to abandon his reckless drinking,” she says.
And from Kilifi, Masha Charo, a delegate, has shared a staffroom with a teacher who had a drink problem. “The man had been to three other schools and all cases, the head teachers had curtly ordered him to fill in transfer forms and leave lest they interdict him,” says Masha.
ACCOMPANIED TO BANK
This delegate says that this teacher typically reports early to school and does all his pending tasks ahead of everybody else. At around break time he takes off only to reappear the following morning. “Every month end, this teacher goes through an embarrassing ritual that gives the teaching profession a bad name,” Masha tells The Counties. “He is accompanied to the bank by all his creditors who include the liquor sellers and his landlord,” says Masha. As soon as he earns his salary, he distributes the bulk of it to these waiting people and with the balance; he stays in town until is over. Then he gets to the village and starts the cycle of credit again. According to Masha, anybody who is owed money by this teacher can only get it back on pay day and in the banking hall otherwise once the man hits the streets it will be a very different story.
And in its annual report to delegates last week, Knut acknowledges the magnitude of drugs and substance abuse in education. Knut calls for a slot in Nacada’s board so that teachers can be represented in antidrug policy formulation.
From the interviews with the delegates, it emerges that teachers in the Arid and Semi-Arid areas of Kenya are the worst abusers of alcohol. Indeed, a study on alcoholism among teachers in Laikipia, an arid area, done by Dr Chege Thiari of Kenyatta University established that out of the over 65,000 teachers working in these areas, over 2,000 are chronic alcoholics. In addition, over 100 teachers in hardship areas lose their jobs annually. Certainly, this has grave implications not only on children, but also on the teachers’ own families which end up breaking.