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Thursday, 20 September 2012

Teachers in Laikipia not budged by Mutula’s 13 billion


By Samuel Thairu

The teacher’s strike called by its umbrella body, Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) is in its third week with no end in sight. The union which advocates for the welfare of the teachers in the country called on all its members to boycott classes and join in solidarity to pressure the government to pay them better packages. The effect of the strike has been felt in various parts of the country and particularly by Kenyan children in public schools. 

In Sipili, the local KNUT leader Mr. Francis Gatimu has been working tirelessly to encourage teachers to continue with the fight. Regular chants of “no retreat no surrender” and “solidarity forever” are now common sounds heard in the divisional headquarters. In one incident, while LRV reporter was doing the regular beats, he saw a group of people gathered and when he inquired about them, the response he got was nonchalant. Those are “solidarity people” said Ng’etich an Administration Police officer stationed in DO’s office. Mr. Gatimu always sends SMS to members to update them on the latest developments. However, some of the teacher’s who requested anonymity said they were tired at staying at home and would wish to have the matter end soon to allow them return to class. They are not amused by what they called ‘idling’ around instead of working.

Lariak Primary School closed because of teacher's strike(Photo: Joseph Kanyi|LRV)
The genesis of the strike is an agreement which KNUT claims was agreed upon fifteen years ago but the government has reneged on it. This was when KNUT had called for a strike that lasted 28 days before they signed it. Teachers were at that time awarded between 150% to 200% pay rise and 50% house allowance, 20% medical allowance and 10% commuter allowance. KNUT says the government did not honour the agreement and has been blaming the failure of economy.

This time round, the teachers are up again and their demand is 300% pay rise and full implementation of the 1997 agreement without phasing as the government did previously. Teachers are irked by the recent increase of perks to civil servants without them necessarily demanding. A recent increase of pay to Permanent Secretaries caused more outbursts as it was seen to be an insult to their demands.

Learners in public institutions are bearing the brunt caused by the strike. An interview by LRV revealed that students are worried that they are only victimized by the circumstances. This is also at time when class eight pupils and form four students are expected to sit for their national exams. Some even went ahead to demonstrate their resentment to teaching as a career because they are not amused with the current conflict between the government and KNUT. They are cognizant that their constitutional right to access education is being violated.

Empty classroom in Lariak Primary School (Photo: Joseph Kanyi| LRV)






On their part, parents sides with their children since they have paid school fees and other requirements while no service is being rendered. They demand that their children be taught and do not understand what the fight is all about. Mwangi, a resident of Sipili Division is one such parent seething with rage. “Teacher’s demands were met and I do not know what is up now. Do they really know that many people have been trained as teachers and are jobless? Why can’t they back up and go and allow other people to do the job rather than cause confusion in the sector?”He Posed.

On Wednesday evening Education minister Mutula Kilonzo offered Ksh.13 billion to teachers. However, the KNUT national chairperson Mr. Wilson Sosion could not budge and declared that the strike was still on. He accused the minister of offering too little and said the government is yet to realize that the strike is a ‘mother of all strikes’. 

Kenya has so far witnessed a series of strikes. After the teachers went on strike, doctors also called for one which is still on. Already nurses have issued a strike notice.
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