Teachers should go for the lesser evil

NAIROBI: The leadership of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and that of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) have committed themselves so much that they have no honourable way of extracting themselves from the mire President Kenyatta herded them, even though Mr Wilson Sossion and Mr Mudzo Nzili have been hailed as the fiercest defenders of teachers rights in recent times.

As generals, they have been pre-occupied with winning the war; charging, like the Japanese did at American soldiers in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1941 before the besieged Americans dropped the atomic bomb on them and altered the equation at Hiroshima in 1945. Charging headlong, the unions forgot to cover their flanks; leaving their rear open to attack.

The sucker punch came from the president; a man who cannot be taken to court because the Constitution insulates him against any form of prosecution while he is in office. The courts cannot order his arrest for contempt of court either. If push comes to shove, Prof Lydia Nzomo and Nancy Macharia of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) will be left holding the bag and even if the court orders their arrest, it might be the Gabriel Lengoboini saga all over again. But let's imagine for the sake of argument that Ms Nzomo and Ms Macharia are locked up somewhere dark and cold, will that have solved the teachers' problems?

I have no reservations whatsoever on teachers demand for better remuneration; they deserve it. The government has been intransigent, refusing to play ball as repeated statements from successive Education ministers attest. With hindsight, this should have guided the teachers unions to adopt a stance that left them some room.

Writing in this column in June, I opined that governments are sly. Winning an argument against a beleaguered government is the closest thing to a miracle today; especially in Africa where only the rights of the political elite are guaranteed. Because the government has control of instruments of violence, it will most likely unleash them on teachers if the latter chooses the path of street demonstrations. As a parent, I am caught in the middle; supporting the teachers' sensible demands and the desire to see students go back to school. I cannot choose either without appearing to be insensitive to the other. Hence, my appeal is to the conscience of teachers who, I believe, must accept they have come to a cul-de-sac and should therefore take the less injurious of the options available. The government appears desperate and might hurt them more by denying them pay as TSC threatened.

Teachers, take solace that Jubilee is the antithesis of the 2013 euphoria that greeted its election; having reneged on almost every single promise it made in its manifesto prior to the 2013 General Election. Insecurity is rampant. The Kenya Human Rights Commission and families at the Coast and North Eastern are horrified by extra judicial killings. Patients are dying in government hospitals from lack of attention and facilities. Children are not getting education because teachers are hungry. Industries are dying out one after the other while poverty is reasserting itself. Instead of job creation, there are job cuts. Need we even talk about executive corruption and a rogue Parliament whose only attribute is the tyranny of numbers underscored by a singular lack of objectivity in whatever undertaking the house addresses itself to? Kenyans are living a false dream; the reality of it only beginning to manifest. If only Jubilee could deliver on half their colourful but insincere promises, this country would be a better place.