, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 12 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has challenged the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) to be reasonable in their pay demand and engage in dialogue with the government.
Kenyatta said that his government was working day and night to resolve the crippling teachers strike, but he maintained that the Sh47 billion demand by the union cannot be met at this point.
“Rome was not built in a day and like I told them one day, this is an issue that they agreed on 15 years ago when some of us were nowhere close to being in government. Now we are only here for three months and you are expecting us to deliver what two governments have not done during their tenures? My friends, let us be reasonable,” he said.
He indicated that house allowances for teachers have already been harmonised with those of other civil servants and that their other grievances can be solved through structured negotiations.
“Yesterday (Thursday) I went to bed at one o’clock doing nothing else but trying to ensure that we get teachers back to school. We are doing our part and the teachers need to do theirs. The unfortunate part is that sometimes I am seeing certain individuals who were in the dockets when they were signing unreasonable agreements, who later came to hold big positions saying ‘pay teachers!’ Where were they in the last 10 years?” he quipped.
He further stated his willingness to have an open public engagement with all unions and government workers on the wage bill.
“They went out on strike (and) we continued to appeal to them that we can only talk on the table, something that took them three weeks to see.
And you can see that when they came to the table, within a day or two, we had reached an agreement with at least one of the unions,” he pointed out referring to a Sh16.2 billion deal signed with the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET).
President Kenyatta further stated that the laptops project is more important than paying the salaries of teachers.
The Head of State stressed that the project will result in the overall development of the Kenyan child with respect to their counterparts in other nations.
While emphasising that the funds to be used for the laptop project would be borrowed, he urged teachers to set their priorities right by being selfless for the sake of the future generations.
“For anybody to tell me that rather than borrow and invest in our children; invest in our school infrastructure, I should borrow money to pay somebody their salary… you want our children tomorrow to be paying off debts that you used to eat today? Surely, that doesn’t make sense; you invest in the future!” he said.
He further indicated that the project will also result in electricity being distributed in schools located in far flung corners of the country.
“We are hoping to electrify and ensure that all our primary schools in this country are provided with electricity. Each transformer in each primary school also means that over 300 families will have the capacity to be connected to the grid. What does that do again in terms of employment?” he posed.
Deputy President William Ruto also described the laptops project as a long term process since it formed part of the crucial policies set to transform Kenya into a digital country.
“It is not a stunt. The laptop issue is not a one-off and it is not something that we are doing merely to fulfil a pledge. It is a policy of the Jubilee government to move the country and use the benefits of a huge fibre optics network that has been laid in the country. It will enable us to digitise for example all the curricula,” he said.