, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 18 – The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) now says that the government’s move to close all public primary schools indefinitely greatly influenced their decision to call off the countrywide teachers’ strike that had crippled learning.
Like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, acting Secretary General Mudzo Nzili indicated that this could have divided union members in primary and secondary sectors.
Speaking to Capital FM News, Nzili stated that the impending court case against them by TSC and the inferior deal by the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) also contributed to their decision.
“In a fighting contest, you cannot avoid retreat. It depends on how somebody has aimed for you. We were not feeling very comfortable with these three issues. If we were just alone with the government, we would have resisted but since the effect was going down to the teachers, and dividing them into two, we had no other choice but to call off the strike,” he said.
“When these schools are closed indefinitely, parents would not understand. They would think KNUT has caused a crisis in the education sector. We also wanted to buy goodwill from the public. We do not want the children to come and blame us later when they grow to say there was a union that subjected us to a lot of suffering when we were at school at this stage, so we had to abandon our hard stand,” he explained.
The KNUT acting SG pointed out that this was a strategic move aimed at alleviating the suffering of parents, teachers and students.
“We looked at the larger picture. Do we pursue or do we withdraw. As a general, when you are fighting and see that your soldiers are going to be affected, you retreat and re-strategise because a good soldier is the one who lives to fight another battle,” he said.
He explained that though they got the commuter allowance to be paid in two phases, the union will be seeking for the implementation of the housing and medical allowances though structured negotiations.
“The amount of Sh16.2 billion is erroneous. Teachers are being duped to imagine that the government has given them that amount. No! For this year, the total amount that has been given is only Sh12.5 billion with commuter allowance taking Sh11.5 billion,” he said.
KNUT’s National Executive Council was forced to accept a Sh16.2 billion offer after Deputy President William Ruto made it clear on Wednesday that they would not receive a better deal.
Nzili blamed the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) for their inability to secure a better deal.
Having already signed a return-to-work formula with the deputy president, Nzili directed teachers to report to schools by 8am Thursday despite a directive issued by Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi earlier on Wednesday that public primary schools remain closed indefinitely.
Commuter allowances aside, it appears the government and KNUT worked around the sticking point of Legal Notice 534 of 1997 but it is unclear whether the union and its officials will still face contempt of court charges for defying a July 1 court order to end their strike.
The contempt case is due in court on Monday.