, NAIROBI, Kenya, July 17 – The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has finally called off its month-long strike after accepting the very same government offer they rejected on Sunday.
KNUT’s National Executive Council was forced to accept a Sh16.8 billion offer after Deputy President William Ruto made it clear on Wednesday that they would not receive a better deal.
“The deal you have been given by the Teachers Service Commission on commuter allowance cannot be added or reduced. We are operating within a very tight budget,” the deputy president said.
KNUT Acting Secretary General Mudzo Nzili blamed the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) for their inability to secure a better deal.
“We wanted the commuter allowances to be paid at one go but we were unable to get the government to budge because KUPPET had already accepted a three phase deal,” he said.
Their housing and medical allowance demands, KNUT Chairman Wilson Sossion said, would be addressed in due time. “We cannot strike forever.”
Having already signed a return-to-work formula during their meeting with the deputy president on Wednesday, Nzili directed teachers to report to schools by 8am Thursday despite a directive issued by Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi earlier on Wednesday that public primary schools be closed indefinitely.
“How can you close schools that were already closed?” Sossion asked mockingly, “We are not a small union. You carry out a spot check of schools tomorrow and you will find them open.”
In unison with Kaimenyi however, Sossion assured parents that the school calendar will remain unaltered including the dates for the mock examinations that were to begin on Thursday.
KUPPET who called off their strike much earlier than KNUT shook off the salvos fired at them by Nzili and Sossion arguing that the duo settled for the very same deal they ridiculed.
“Sossion said they had already been receiving Sh5 billion of the Sh16 billion they were awarded therefore in reality they are receiving the very same Sh11 billion we agreed to,” KUPPET Chairman Milemba Omboko told Capital FM News.
Commuter allowances aside, it appears the government and KNUT worked around the sticking point of Legal Notice 534 of 1997 but it is unclear whether the union and its officials will still face contempt of court charges for defying a July 1 court order to end their strike.
Sossion however still maintained that the possibility of a jail term does not faze him. “If we were worried about the contempt of court charges we would have called off the strike on July 2. What date is it today?”
It was the first time in the union’s history and in seven strikes since 1997 that it faced court action for refusing to call off a strike but whatever the result may be, millions of children and their parents are breathing a sigh of relief as learning resumes and the strike comes to an end.