End in sight to teachers strike, says Githae

September 21, 2012 2:30 pm
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Finance Minister Njeru Githae said the meeting adjourned to allow the KNUT executive committee to consider the government’s offer of harmonising teachers’ pay with other civil servants in three phases/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 21 – A meeting between Finance Minister Njeru Githae, the Teachers Service Commission and the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) ended on a positive note on Friday, with the government exuding confidence that teachers would call off their strike over the weekend.

Finance Minister Njeru Githae said the meeting adjourned to allow the KNUT executive committee to consider the government’s offer of harmonising teachers’ pay with other civil servants in three phases.

He said the teachers’ union team led by KNUT chairman, Wilson Sossion pledged to convene an Executive Council meeting on Saturday to discuss whether to call off the strike.

“We have been meeting since 10am, we had called you (media) thinking you were going to see us shaking hands but we have to wait. But as a show of good faith, they (KNUT) have said they are going to call for their NEC on Saturday because they are hopeful that we will be able to strike a compromise,” explained Githae.

“They know our position… we know where they are coming from and we have understood their fears so we took that into consideration. We had the whole team of KNUT national officials,” he added after the meeting held at the Ministry of Finance Headquarters.

In an earlier meeting, the KNUT leadership had insisted on getting a clear date and structure for their pay. The union said the government must treat the teachers’ strike as an emergency.

Teachers Service Commission Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni said they will hold off implementing the Cabinet decision of firing striking teachers saying that they are still hopeful of a return to work formula before Sunday.

“We expect our children to go back to school on Monday. Hopefully tomorrow (Saturday) if we reach an agreement we will draft a return to work formula so that on Sunday all will be clear,” he added.

A Cabinet meeting held on Thursday threatened to sack and replace striking teachers and doctors if they failed to return to work immediately.

“We have been meeting since 10am, we had called you (media) thinking you were going to see us shaking hands but we have to wait. But as a show of good faith, they (KNUT) have said they are going to call for their NEC on Saturday because they are hopeful that we will be able to strike a compromise,” explained Githae.

During the meeting chaired by President Mwai Kibaki it was also agreed that the government will hire retired teachers, should current ones maintain their strike.

“The Cabinet once again asked teachers to resume work. Failure to do so, the government will in their place employ the 100,000 teachers who have completed their training, any retired teachers below 65 years will be reabsorbed among other measures,” the Cabinet brief released on Thursday stated.

Githae urged the teachers union to put the interest of the student and that the country first.

“We are looking for a win-win-win situation; a win for KNUT, a win for the Kenya government, a win for the student, a win for the Kenya economy and a win for the country,” said Githae.

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