Intern exploitation is a widespread issue that affects young people around the world.
An intern is typically a student or recent graduate who works in a company or organization in order to gain practical experience and skills in their field of study. While internships can be a valuable opportunity for personal and professional growth, they can also be a source of exploitation if employers take advantage of the interns’ lack of experience and vulnerability.
The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) recently embarked on a recruitment process of 35,000 teachers. The move is in an effort to address the existing teacher shortage of about 116,000 as estimated by the commission. As workers unions laud the move, 21,550 teachers who will be hired on an internship basis with a basic salary of Ksh 15,000 are at the risk of being exploited at the junior secondary schools they are to work in.
One common form of intern exploitation is the use of unpaid or underpaid internships.
Many interns are willing to work for free or for minimal pay in order to gain valuable experience and connections in their field.
However, some employers take advantage of this willingness by offering unpaid/underpaid internships that require the same level of work and commitment as paid positions. This can be especially detrimental to low-income or disadvantaged individuals who have no alternative.
With the ravaging effects of unemployment, there is a high probability that most applicants will go for the Ksh15, 000 internships which is below the minimum wedge.
In Kenya, the minimum wage is set by the government and is reviewed periodically. As of 2021, the minimum wage for non-agricultural workers in Kenya was 14,582 Kenyan shillings per month for unskilled workers, and 16,442 Kenyan shillings per month for semi-skilled workers.
The minimum wage for agricultural workers is set at a lower rate. It is important to note that the minimum wage in Kenya applies to all employees, including interns.
Employers are required to pay their interns at least the minimum wage, unless the intern is participating in a recognized training program (which is not the case with the teachers being recruited) that is exempt from the minimum wage requirement. In such cases, the intern may be paid a lower stipend as part of their training.
The poor pay is despite the poor working conditions ranging from schools in Kenya are underfunded and lack the resources necessary to provide a high-quality education, teachers in Kenya often have to manage large class sizes, which can make it difficult to give individual attention to students, poor infrastructure, including dilapidated buildings, lack of electricity, and limited access to clean water. This can create a challenging learning environment for both teachers and students among other challenges.
In conclusion, intern exploitation is a serious issue that affects many young people seeking to gain experience and build their careers. It is important for the government, employers, and society as a whole to recognize and address this problem, in order to ensure that all interns have access to fair and valuable learning opportunities.
By enforcing labor laws, implementing protections for interns, raising awareness, and supporting efforts to promote fair and ethical internships, we can work to create a more equitable and just society for all.