By Augustine Oduor
Nairobi, Kenya: The government was Tuesday weighing the early closure of public schools to face down striking teachers as the turmoil in the education sector reached boiling point.
A senior education official, who offered to speak off record owing to the sensitivity of the information, revealed that this had emerged as one of the options authorities are toying with to break the standoff with striking teachers affiliated to the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).
Public primary schools are scheduled to close around August 9, according to the second term calendar, but senior education officials are reportedly contemplating an earlier date should teachers dig in.
Authorities have threatened to fire teachers who defied the directive to resume duty but experts have questioned the government’s ability to replace 278,000 teachers who are Knut members.
Tuesday, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) invited trained unemployed teachers to enroll at their nationwide offices for “employment to replace striking teachers.”
TSC secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni issued the notice instructing those interested to take up teaching jobs to register by Friday.
Teachers have ignored successive orders by the TSC to resume classes in compliance with the July 1 Industrial Court order, for which top Knut officials are facing contempt of court proceedings.
Knut leadership maintained that they will press on with “the spirit of the National Executive Council (NEC)” that demanded all allowances be paid at once- a condition the Government has flatly rejected.
But although Knut maintained that the strike is on officials announced they would make a “major communication” Wednesday.
It is unclear whether they will press on with their hard line demands or soften their position.
“We shall make a decision tomorrow (Wednesday) with or without a court ruling on our case,” said Knut national chairman Wilson Sossion.
TSC wants Sossion and the secretary general Mudzo Nzili jailed for disobeying the court order to call off the strike and the hearing of the case will continue Wednesday.
It emerged authorities are contemplating closing primary schools earlier to buy time.
“The best option would be to close down schools to buy the Government time to deal with the crisis. But that is a decision that will be taken at higher levels,” a senior education official told The Standard on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Officials reckon the strategy will ease the pressure on the impact of the strike with the perception of ‘normal’ holiday, and also extend the economic sanctions on teachers.
Striking teachers will be without pay for three months since TSC froze their salaries in June.