The teachers strike entered week three this week with no signs of the government and the teachers union reaching an agreement. While the teachers insist that they want a salary increase and increased allowances, the government on the other hand insists it has no money to pay the striking teachers.
Despite a court order stating the strike as illegal, the teachers have decided to stick to their demands; they are not going back to class unless the government settles their demand.
This brings into question the government’s commitment in solving this industrial dispute that has paralysed learning in all public schools. For how long will the teachers continue with the strike? When is the government going to come to a clear and amicable solution to the strike? The president and his deputy are on record asking the teachers to go back to class while they try to find a solution. The cabinet secretary in charge of education Mr. Kaimenyi and his counterpart in charge of Labour Kazungu Kambi have also sent the same request to the teachers to no avail. The Attorney General on the other hand stated that the teachers risked being arrested for contempt of court. With all this utterances being made, nothing seem to be in the offing to solve this issue.
Issuing these statements in churches and press conferences has now become a way of fooling Kenyans to make them think that the government is doing something to solve this strike while in real sense nothing is being done. If the government is really committed to ending this strike then a solutions should have been found by now. Three weeks is such a long time for any kind if industrial action and any serious government should have acted first.
None of these leaders children go to these public schools, none of these teachers’ children also attend these public schools too. Even in villages, teachers’ kids attend any school in the name of an academy. These are private schools. The only students suffering are the poor kids who depend on these public schools to gain education, a basic need. Come the exam period, these students, whether in public schools or private ones are going to sit for the same exam. How are the teachers going to compensate for this lost time, especially after the banning of holiday tuition?
The parents Association also came out to support the strike. When you see parents and everybody else going the teachers’ way, then as a country we really need to think twice. Something really needs to be done, and done fast. The government should not take this matter lightly; it should treat this whole issue with the seriousness it deserves.
Both cabinet secretaries in the education and labour ministry should stop using this barbaric means of calling for dialogue with the teachers. Kenyans want both parties to come up with an amicable solution to this strike as soon as possible. If this is the way future industrial actions are going to be handled in future then we really have a long way to go. Our president Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto should know Kenyans are keenly watching.
Nixon Kanali, Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC), Nairobi