NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 16 – The government has outlawed a strike planned for Monday by teachers, and warned that those who take part that they would not receive any pay for the days they boycott work.
The chairman of the Teacher Service Commission (TSC) Ibrahim Hussein said on Friday that the government was prepared to ensure learning continued across the country at all costs.
"This is not a secret… anybody who will participate in the strike will not be paid any salary. This is what the law says," he said although but added the teachers had every constitutional right to air their grievances through a strike.
Mr Hussein spoke as Education Permanent Secretary Karega Mutahi instructed education officers to ensure schools remained open during the period of the strike.
"We will be required to monitor closely the situation as it unfolds, making critical judgments and furnishing key players with information. These include Ministry officials and education boards for appropriate action," the former lecturer said.
Professor Mutahi said that only the Education Secretary had the mandate to order the closure of schools.
Monday’s strike follows the rejection of a pay agreement spread out over a three-year period, with teachers insisting they wanted it paid in a lump sum.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers wants the government to raise the increase for lower cadres from an average of 26 to 35 percent, bringing the expected payment to Sh19 billion. The government has however remained adamant that the economy cannot afford more than the Sh17.1 billion which can only be paid over 36 months.
The PS said that Education Minister Sam Ongeri had already handed over the tussle to his labour counterpart John Munyes. Professor Ongeri had earlier warned that if the dispute went to the Labour Ministry, the offer would stand withdrawn.
On his part, Mr Hussein said that the law require Head Teachers and Departmental heads to continue discharging their duties and ensure the safety and security of children and school property.
A brief from the TSC Secretary said, "Section 28 (8) (1-3) of the code of regulations for teachers stipulates in the event of a strike or any other disturbances leading to a stoppage of school work the administrative staff of the school shall continue to undertake such duties as are necessary to ensure the safety and security of school property and safeguard the welfare of learners."
KNUT Secretary General Lawrence Majali had earlier in the week warned head teachers against remaining in schools while other teachers boycotted work.
A rival union, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) this week accepted a pay offer after it signed an agreement with the government. Its members subsequently called off any strike action.
But KNUT dismissed the KUPPET deal as illegal and warned it would challenge it in court since the rival union was not enjoined in long-drawn negotiations for a pay increase.
Prof Mutahi however defended this deal with the teachers in secondary schools and tertiary institutions saying that it was the industrial court that directed the government to recognise the union. The PS maintained that the agreement was legal and dared KNUT to challenge it in the High Court.
In 1997 teachers paralysed learning for close to a month making it the longest strike. The government was forced to negotiate with the teachers.
In the meantime the Kenya Primary Schools Head teachers Association has urged teachers to call off Monday’s strike.
National Chairman Joseph Karuga said that the strike would disrupt the learning process thereby affecting the students.
"Every sector of the economy revolves on education. What about the children? Later on as teachers, how will we stop the children from going on to the streets and striking?" he asked.
Mr Karuga called on teachers to embrace dialogue as a way of solving their salary disputes.
"They would rather take the package that the government is putting on the table and then continue fighting for more other than losing even the 35 percent."