NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 5- A meeting between the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and the Government on Monday failed to forestall the looming teachers’ strike after the union insisted that it would go ahead with the intended industrial action.
The talks which were chaired by Prime Minister Raila Odinga collapsed following the government’s request for a week to meet the teachers’ union demand to hire 28,000 tutors.
Mr Odinga called the crisis meeting with the teachers in a bid to resolve teachers’ grievances and avert the strike which began taking effect on Monday.
Teachers in public schools in most parts of the country downed their tools on as schools re-opened after the August holiday as Prime Minister Raila Odinga stepped in to end the industrial action that was set to officially kick off on Tuesday.
The union led by Secretary General David Okuta refused the PM’s offer to give the government a week to hire 28,000 teachers.
Mr Okuta said teachers would only return to classrooms once their demands are met.
“Indeed we have held a meeting, which was very fruitful I would say… but it fell short of resolving the issue which we have and therefore we are still where we were. I know you would like to hear that the strike is called off, but it has not,” he told a news conference after the meeting.
“The teachers this time are not fighting for money, we are fighting for the quality of education and even the Permanent Secretaries who attended the meeting agreed that we must go back to the days where our public schools outshone the private ones,” he said.
In Nairobi, most teachers reported to work in the morning but vowed not to teach until the government agreed to employ more teachers.
In Mombasa, the story was the same with public schools in Mvita, Changamawe and Likoni constituencies affected by the strike.
KNUT Mombasa branch Executive Secretary Ahya Juma Ahya termed Monday’s go slow as a ‘rehearsal.’
A spot check by Capital News in Kisumu also revealed that few teachers turned up in schools there as students reported for their classes.
Nyanza Provincial Director of Education Geoffrey Cherongis has however urged teachers to report to work and allow the government to handle the situation through dialogue.
Kisumu Municipality Education Officer Naomi Odawo said they have dispatched their officers to schools within their jurisdiction to assess the situation.
Education Permanent Secretary James Ole Kiyapi led the government team to a news conference and appealed for patience from education stakeholders as the government tries to resolve the impasse.
“We need to raise about Sh6 billion, if we are to convert 18,000 teachers to permanent and pensionable basis and also hire an additional 10,000. So there is no concrete answer yet because we have to go back to do our homework on the matter,” he told the news conference which was not attended by the PM.
Finance PS Joseph Kinyua who also attended the meeting denied reports that years of a freeze on the employment of teachers that was introduced in the 1990s seems to have caught the government flat footed, as natural attrition, retirement and an exodus of teachers to greener pastures has seen the education fraternity deprived of human resource.
He agreed that more teachers were needed, and the pressure on teachers has seen the ratio of teachers to students grow tenfold beyond that recommended by the United Nations of one teacher to every 42 pupils.
“The government will have to be innovative as it seeks a solution to this matter,” he said.
The government recently recanted an earlier decision to employ teachers after the Appropriation Bill presented did not factor money meant for use in the employment of the teachers and the absorption of those already working apprenticeship.<object width=”300″ height=”255″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/xgbeZaGqGRo?version=3&hl=en_US”></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/xgbeZaGqGRo?version=3&hl=en_US” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” width=”300″ height=”255″ allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true”></embed></object>