, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 21 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has reiterated the government position that it does not have the additional money to pay teachers as directed by the Employment and Labour Relations Court.
In a televised address on Sunday night, Kenyatta said while the government was committed to ensuring all public servants were adequately remunerated, the 50-60 percent pay increment demanded by the teachers was not tenable and thus implored the teachers, as parents, as public servants and as Kenyans to reconsider their position on the matter and to resume their duties for the sake of the innocent children.
“It is wrong to hold our children hostage to wage demands. Even as we all seek a peaceful end to the dispute, we ask teachers to let our children return to school,” he said.
He affirmed the government’s commitment to ending the dispute that has resulted in the closure of all schools and a revision of the term dates with only a few days left to the commencement of the national examinations.
“We have the institutions, the means, and the goodwill to end this dispute, and bring our children back to school,” he added.
The President further called on the various constitutional bodies to discharge their duties expeditiously to ensure a lasting solution to the perennial problem.
“In the management of teachers and working with the Salaries and Remunerations Commission, the Teachers Service Commission has progressively enhanced the terms and conditions of teachers, and they have now been brought up to par with other civil servants,” Kenyatta posed.
The President warned that if the government was to pay the teachers the additional money Kenyans would have to pay for it as taxes would have to be increased to accommodate the huge wage Bill.
He stated that in the 2015/16 financial year, Sh174 billion was set aside to pay teachers up from Sh139 billion last financial year and if the 50-60 percent award were paid, the government would have to find an additional Sh118 billion to meet the salary and pension obligations of the award.
“We would have to raise VAT from 16 to 22 percent or borrow more money or suspend critical development programs and essential services in health, in education and in security,” said Kenyatta.
He pointed out that if the above was done the cost of living would ‘skyrocket’, the economy would be slowed down and there would be an increase in unemployment and poverty.
“None of these options is tenable–our country must live within its means,” he asserted.
He further dispelled the notion that the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) still owed money teachers under the 1997 agreement saying the award of between 150 and 200 percent had been settled in full.
“A P1 teacher who earned a gross salary of Sh7, 762 then now earns a minimum of Sh23,692, while the highest paid teacher who took home Sh35, 886 then now earns a minimum of Sh140, 089,” he said.
He also stated that while thought Kenyan teachers’ were poorly paid, they were actually the third highest paid on the continent after Morocco and South Africa.
“The lowest paid teacher in Uganda earns the equivalent of Sh7, 600 while the lowest paid in Tanzania earns Sh15, 800 compared to the lowest-paid Kenyan teacher who takes home over Sh23, 000,” he pointed out.
The highly anticipated speech was an ‘anticlimax’ for the teachers who have since maintained that they will not resume work until their salaries are increased.
Their employer on the other hand has warned the striking teachers that they risk losing their jobs if they don’t go back to class since their three week long strike was declared unprotected by the court.
The Employment and Labour Relations Court is Monday expected to hear a contempt of court lawsuit pitting the teachers against their employer.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) is accusing TSC, Cabinet and principal secretaries of Finance and Labour for failing to honour court order to raise teachers’ basic pay by 50 to 60 percent.