The collapse of teaching in public primary and secondary schools and universities is a severe indictment of the Government.
Since 1997 when the agreement at the heart of the dispute between the Kenya National Union of Teachers and the State was penned, there have been several opportunities for an amicable settlement.
The same is true of the lecturers who, let’s face it, are overworked and grossly underpaid.
So far, the resolve of the Minister for Education not to bow to the will of the teachers and lecturers has only served to paint the Government as a heartless employer.
Even worse for the State, legislators and civil servants have seen their pay increased to levels most teachers can only dream of.
Teachers and lecturers have not asked for anything more than what they rightfully claim is due to them. Unfortunately, the State has responded with offers that are not only derisory, but also an insult to their integrity.
It is not true that the Government cannot meet the teachers halfway. Unions often push for a high settlement as a starting point for negotiations. Rarely do they insist on sticking to one level: They understand that negotiations for better pay are a matter of give and take and have a duty to seek the best possible settlement based on the ability of the State to pay.
That this has not happened is wholly due to the bad faith and polarising influence of the Minister for Education who used every podium to denounce the unionists as blackmailers playing to a political gallery to hold the State to ransom. His poor choice of language inflamed the situation even more.
Also, the Treasury is being economical with the truth when it says it has no money to pay teachers.
Sh200 pay increase
The Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s role is advisory and the Teachers Service Commission, which falls under the Education Ministry, is the one to sort out this mess, but appears to have taken its cue from the minister. It is now trying to use the courts to pummel teachers into submission.
Parents have paid fees and this is an examination term. Unfortunately, it appears their children will bear the brunt of the standoff.