The Employment and Labour Court has given a lifeline to assistant lecturers toiling in public universities after it quashed a directive requiring them to acquire doctorate degrees to keep their jobs.
The Commission for University Education (CUE) had ordered all assistant lecturers to get PhD degrees to qualify to teach by October 2019.
In the landmark decision, Justice Stephen Radido faulted CUE for issuing the directive without consulting the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) who are a primary stakeholder.
Uasu, through lawyer Titus Koceyo, had urged the court to declare as null and void the directive, warning it would lead to the collapse of the higher learning sector because the country has few PhD holders.
The judge concurred with Koceyo that Uasu is a stakeholder in the formulation of policies which affect the universities and its input is vital before adoption and implementation.
“Uasu was not involved in the process leading to the adoption of the harmonised criteria and guidelines for appointment and promotion of academic staff in universities in Kenya,” ruled Justice Radido.
“A declaration is hereby issued that the Harmonised Criteria and Guidelines for Appointment and Promotion of Academic Staff in Universities in Kenya dated October 27 2014 are invalid, null and void having been made in breach of Articles 10 (2) (a),(c), 41(1),(2)(c),4 (b) & (5) and 232(1)(d) ,(f) and Sections 10 (5) and 13 of the Employment Act, 2007.”
CUE, which regulates learning in the universities, had directed that all assistant lecturers in universities must have a PhD by October 2019.
CUE had said those who will not have attained the required academic qualification by then should count themselves relieved of their duties.
Besides the academic qualifications, the Education Cabinet Secretary sent a policy paper requiring all public universities to negotiate individual salaries payable to teaching staff.
Following the two directives, the Uasu contested the policies in court, saying its input was not sought before implementation.
In the PhD case, Uasu had named Machakos University and CUE as the respondents.
In a February 6, communication to Machakos University’s Registrar of Admissions and Planning, Dr Susan Nzioki, CUE scrapped the position of assistant lecturer as per its “new commission for university education guidelines”.
Dr Nzioki then directed all assistant lecturers and tutorial fellows to present a report on their progress towards attainment of PhDs.
The judge over ruled a contention on whether vice-chancellors and principals of colleges could represent employees where terms and conditions of service are negotiated. He stated in 23-page judgement: “Vice Chancellors and Principals of University Colleges within a University context are the very epitome of the employer. Their interests cannot be those of the employees or a trade union representing employees.”