NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 18 – The government has pleaded with lecturers in Kenyan public universities not to down tools on October 14 over the delayed implementation of a 15 percent pay increment.
Higher Education Assistant Minister Kilemi Mwiria has urged the Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) to call off its industrial action in the interest of students noting that funds to pay them had been factored in the current budget.
"I urge you to remain patient as the government has put aside almost Sh2 billion which will be available at the end of this month to pay academic staff members and negotiations are underway with Treasury to have more money allocated in the Supplementary Budget in March," he said during the 41st graduation ceremony at the University of Nairobi.
UASU issued a 21-day strike notice during a national delegate’s conference at Masinde Muliro University in Kakamega on September 12.
The lecturers were also expected to receive a 7.5 percent increase in house allowance in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed with public universities on June 28.
Dr Mwiria has assured lecturers that the government would not fail to address issues raised by the union.
"I appreciate what some members of UASU have been saying that if the government can get money to pay teachers, MPs and Judges then it should get money to pay lecturers," he said.
He however maintained that the dispute would only be resolved through dialogue.
“You can count on government especially in your appreciation of your commitment to dialogue to support you and to ensure that whatever is due to UASU members in accordance with the CBA that was negotiated will be met,” Dr Mwiria said.
He urged universities to diversify their revenue bases to ensure they don’t rely on government to pay lecturers.
“The most established universities in the world have professors who contribute to their own income through attraction of research and consultancy grants and I am assure we have very good brains to do the same here,” he said.
Chancellor Joe Wanjui urged the government to utilise knowledge at the university to deal with national challenges.
“The College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences, for example, should be at the forefront in the development of proposals on how to address the problem of food scarcity. Our engineers should help us to come up with alternative energy sources that are affordable and environmental friendly,” he said.
3,947 students were awarded with Diplomas and Degrees in various academic fields during the graduation ceremony.
Colleges that participated in the exercise included those of Agriculture and Vetinary Sciences, Architecture and Engineering, Biological and Physical Sciences and the College of Education and External Studies.