The standoff between the Government and teachers over salaries is shameful and does not augur well for the education sector.
Teachers have been on strike for the past three weeks and if no solution is found, there are indications it could drag on.
The strike has disrupted learning in public institutions forcing many to send students home.
The strike comes at a crucial period in the schools’ academic calendar, as this is the term when national examinations – the
Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations are held.
There’s no denying that pupils and students preparing for these examinations have been affected by the ongoing strike. Already, there is talk that the two exams may be rescheduled if the impasse is not solved fast.
However, what is most worrying is the stand taken by the Government on the strike. Just when Kenyans expected the Cabinet to give direction on the matter, it has instead opted to issue threats to the teachers hoping this would cow them to go back to class.
The Cabinet, sitting on Thursday in a session chaired by President Kibaki and attended by Prime Minister Raila Odinga, asked teachers to resume duty and threatened mass sackings and salary freezes to those who fail to comply with the order.
It is sad that just when the dispute had narrowed down to whether the Sh13.5 billion should be paid in three tranches as demanded by Government or at a one-go as asked by the teachers, the Cabinet came out blazing and issuing threats. It told them they would be sacked.
And in a move that smacks of desperation, the Cabinet said if the strike goes on, the 100,000 trained but yet to be employed, and retired teachers under age 65 would be redeployed to salvage the crumbling public sector.
The Government has consistently goofed on the matter. The ministers who should give direction have equally decided to take a hardline stand. We recall that even as the negotiations progressed, Finance minister Njeru Githae declared there was no money for teachers.
Teachers from the 278,000-strong Kenya National Union of Teachers have demanded a 300 per cent pay rise, while those of the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers with 47,000 members want a 100 per cent increase.