, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 3 – Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo has ordered striking teachers to resume work and warned that pay will be deducted for the days they miss work.
Speaking as the teachers downed their tools en-masse on Monday, Kilonzo maintained that the strike was illegal.
“We are going to solve this as quickly as possible, failure to which the TSC will take disciplinary action as I have been informed this afternoon, including freezing of salaries to those who have gone on strike, for the period they have, ” he warned.
Acknowledging that teachers had legitimate grievances, he however pleaded with them to comply with the court order blocking the strike.
Kilonzo added that the strike undermined the interests and rights of children that are now protected by the constitution.
“Our teachers shouting at buildings is quite embarrassing and unacceptable because as they shout on the streets, the Kenyan child is left unattended in schools. As Minister for Education, I demand that all teachers go back to school, because that is where they belong.”
He has asked the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) to exploit the mechanism the constitution has provided to handle the dispute instead of using what he termed outdated methods in settling an industrial dispute.
Kilonzo also termed the teachers’ strike as political adding that it has been a trend for them to engage in strike before national elections.
“2002… strike, 2007 another strike, so they have learned this knee-jerk reaction more or less blackmailing any government in office during elections. But not when I am around. I am not going to accept that sort of nonsense. I know it’s politics!” complained the minister.
He said despite the 1997 agreement between the government and the teachers, the latter should consider that there is a new constitution which may not be in line with the agreement adding that the only way is through dialogue.
“When the agreement was being done there are many children who were not yet born, and they have a right, “he argued.
He said he had received advice from the Teachers Service Commission on the state of the grievances the teachers had highlighted noting that he would forward it to the Cabinet for discussion.
The 1997 pay deal involved a 300 percent increase in basic salaries for all teachers as well as higher allowances. The final instalment of the pay rise was paid out in 2009, but the allowances are yet to be completed as agreed.
“Dialogue will help clarify this matter, before we even think of going to the street. But I think the days when a minister came here and gave empty promises are gone, the law must be followed, “said Kilonzo.
According to the deal, teachers should by now have received various allowances including house allowances (50 percent of basic pay), medical allowance of 30 percent, and commuter allowance of 10 percent and 30 percent allowance for areas gazetted as hardship zones.