, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 29 – The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has scoffed at pleas by Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi not to go on strike next week and instead accused the government of insincerity.
KNUT Secretary General Wilson Sossion said on Monday that little progress had been made after 26 meetings with the Teachers Service Commission.
“Sometimes we are given an offer, and then it is withdrawn,” he complained as he pledged to publish minutes of the meetings they have held with the Commission.
“We cannot be demonized forever as strike-happy teachers, no! we don’t enjoy it but we don’t have an alternative to protect our rights,” he sought to justify.
He was responding to pleas by the Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi who had asked teachers to put the plight of students first and withdraw their strike notice.
Kaimenyi said the government fully understood the demands by teachers and was willing to engage them in negotiations to improve their welfare.
“We recognize the challenges experienced by the teachers including sometimes lack of accommodation; insecurity in some areas; certain allowances that they deserve; lack of infrastructure in some of our schools; but we should allow dialogue between the unions and the legally established institutions mandated to handle remuneration of teachers,” said Kaimenyi.
Both KNUT and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) have opposed a move by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to slash some of the allowances enjoyed by teachers. Sossion has even insisted that SRC has no mandate to determine teachers’ allowances, maintaining that their members are not categorized as State officers.
“It (SRC) cannot arrogate itself powers that it has not been given in the Constitution….we are not listed as State officers; teachers are not even public servants! This is misinterpretation of the Constitution,” he maintained.
“The more the government brings SRC at the negotiating table to confuse the process, then it is inviting an early strike,” he stressed.
Kaimenyi has however asked the unions to accept both the SRC and the TSC are legitimate bodies allowed by the law to engage on negotiations to determine teachers’ pay. He added that constant strikes by teachers were a hindrance to the provision of quality education in the country.
“If we go the strike way, it will undoubtedly affect the quality of education in Kenya. It will affect the image of education because who would want to bring their children from foreign countries to a nation where there is uncertainty about the education calendar? If we love our country – and I know Sossion loves Kenya – then these are the things to consider,” said the Cabinet Secretary.
Sossion issued an immediate rejoinder, saying the strike train had already left the station.
“(The matter) is out of my control. I appended my signature on Saturday and it would be a miracle for me to withdraw the same simply because of a mere public relations statement from a Cabinet Secretary who is supposed to provide solutions but is instead adding fuel to the already simmering conflict,” he said.
On Saturday, the teachers union declared that it would go on strike on January 5 – when public schools are scheduled to reopen – unless the government made a substantive offer this week. The road to a strike was mapped last month when a KNUT National Delegates Conference mandated the top organs to call for a strike should talks with the government collapse.