Kenyan teachers have been on strike for three weeks, demanding the adoption of a 50-60 per cent salary increase awarded to them by the Employment and Labour Relations Court.
The government has so far refused to increase their pay, forcing schools throughout the country to be closed down.
The demands made by the teaching fraternity are quite reasonable and justifiable.
For many years our teachers were underpaid and most of them led very miserable lives. This discouraged students from aspiring to become teachers. In fact some of the obnoxious jokes were about teachers.
The most respected profession that has given our nation some of her finest leaders has been destroyed.
The Kenyan government has miserably failed to handle the teachers’ strike.
The level of arrogance and carelessness that our leaders directed at the teachers’ union, in my opinion has never been experienced in any recent past.
When the government realised that the teachers had tabled their demands, they rushed to court who did not rule in their favour. The teachers were awarded 50 – 60% pay rise and it was upheld by the Court of Appeal last month.
“I can’t pay, I won’t pay”, that was President Uhuru Kenyatta’s candid message to the striking teachers.
The government decided to close all schools indefinitely even though most schools had not reopened. The courts have now stopped the government from shutting the private schools. In essence the end result is glaring.
The government may have to humble itself and dialogue with the teachers. The argument that the pay rise will cripple the economy is not selling because the real problem is widespread corruption that the ruling elite must properly and urgently deal with.
The teachers’ strike is justifiable and majority of Kenyans believe they should be paid what the court awarded them.
Time has now come for the government to come down and engage constructively with the teachers without threats.
It is equally important to appoint a Minister of Education who is passionate about education matters.
By Steve Owiti