, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 7 – As the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) presses on with its demands, Education Minister Sam Ongeri has urged teachers to go back to their classrooms considering the upcoming exams.
After failed talks on Monday, KNUT and the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) declared the strike officially on Tuesday, allowing teachers to cease their duties until their demands are met.
Speaking to the press while attending the launch of the International Gold Award in Naivasha on Tuesday, Prof Ongeri said the Ministry of Education had been in talks with the Treasury over the last few days to resolve the issue.
“There shouldn’t be any panic nor should there be a hasty strike. From Friday my officers have been involved with the Treasury in discussing this matter. They also met on Monday and my Permanent Secretary is today (Tuesday) engaging a debate with the Treasury,” he said.
Prof Ongeri said the ministry had plans to employ 10,000 teachers this financial year but a lack of funds put the process on hold.
However, with 245,000 teachers already on the payroll, he said increasing numbers now would be an additional financial burden for the government.
“No single country can be able to reduce the shortage at the current level of 75,000 within a single budget, so it has to be on a phased out three-year or four-year period before we come to the ground zero level,” he said.
According to Education Permanent Secretary James Ole Kiyapi, the government would need to raise about Sh6 billion to transfer 18,000 teachers to permanent and pensionable status as well as hire an additional 10,000 teachers.
KNUT along with KUPPET had indicated that the Sh5.5 billion pledged to hire the 28,000 teachers was insufficient, and that an extra Sh1.9 billion was needed.
Reducing the shortage numbers, Prof Ongeri said would take time given that the hiring of new teachers heavily depends on the funds allocated to the ministry each year.
“This is the government policy. If you carefully read Sessional Paper No.1 of 2005 it clearly stipulates that the teacher content would have attained by around about this time total employment of 28,000 teachers,” he said.
Prof Ongeri further clarified that the ministry has been promoting the need of resources since last year which he said once made available would make way to employ the necessary number of teachers.