, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 4 – The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has denied that the current nationwide strike is politically motivated, as the industrial action entered the second day.
KNUT chairman Wilson Sossion while responding to remarks by Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo insisted that the teachers were simply out to fight for their rights.
Sossion said that they have written to the minister seeking that he withdraws his remarks within two days.
“We take great exemption from the utterances by the minister that the strike is politically instigated and want to remind him that teachers are neither politically not ethnically aligned. KNUT registered a dispute with the Teachers Service Commission and the Ministry of Labour; that was not political! We are on a professional course,” asserted Sossion.
The KNUT chairman who spoke in Nairobi maintained that the teachers are in the strike for the long haul, until their demands are met.
He accused the minister of failing to articulate the issue of teacher’s salaries before the Cabinet as he was made aware in good time of the matter that has been around for a long time now.
“What the minister should have done ever since we presented our case was to take it before Cabinet. We believe that his non-commitment to table our case before Cabinet was intention to cause chaos,” alleged Sossion.
On Monday Kilonzo had 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.
Acting Secretary General Xavier Nyamu said that the union will take legal action against the police who brutalised teachers as they picketed in Murang’a on Monday.
“We are disturbed when we see teachers run and scream and being clobbered by the police. We have written to the Police Commissioner and we will proceed to court,” he said.
Day two of the strike was however marred by reports of violence in some parts of the country.
In Siaya town, several head teachers were attacked and beaten by their junior striking teachers for sitting the Kenya Education Management Institute Examination (KEMI) as the strike continued.
Two of the school heads were rushed to Siaya District Hospital with serious injuries after their colleagues attacked them in a hotel where they were found taking lunch.
Other school heads were waylaid on their way from Siaya Township Secondary School where they sat the exam and stripped off their clothes as they were frog-marched with kicks and blows to the KNUT branch office.
A joint force of administration and regular police officers led by Siaya Acting District Commissioner Gerald Mutuku moved in after some time to save the situation.
In Nairobi, teachers failed to report to class on the second day of the strike. Instead they took to the streets to express their grievances while some stayed home
They have vowed not to go back to class unless the government is ready to address the yet-to-be-implemented deal of 1997.
Nairobi County Executive secretary Hesbon Otieno said the government must address their grievances.
“Yesterday (Monday) the minister threatened to sack teachers and withhold salaries; we are asking him to give us our letters. We are ready to be sacked just for this cause,” he said while protesting at the minister’s office.
Otieno challenged the government to address the welfare of its workers before the wave of industrial action becomes viral in all sectors.
“It started with doctors, now with teachers, the lecturers are coming out and it may be bigger, so let them listen,” Otieno warned.
In Nyahururu, primary and secondary school head teachers sitting for the KEMI exams at Ndururumo High School were flushed out of exam rooms by irate KNUT and KUPPET officials.
KUPPET Executive Secretary Ndung’u Wangenye and KNUT branch chairman Jackson Mugo insisted that teachers in both unions were required to stop all school activities and be in solidarity with their colleagues.
The head teachers’ plea to refer the union officials to exam coordinators for further explanation as to why the exams were going on during a strike period fell on deaf ears.
Similar exams going on in the neighbouring Nyahururu High school were stopped when word spread that union officials and striking teachers from Nyandarua and Laikipia were on the way to invade the school.