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Tough week as Kenyan universities face closure over strike

By Augustine Oduor | Published Sun, March 4th 2018 at 00:00, Updated March 3rd 2018 at 20:51 GMT +3
UASU national secretary Dr Costantine Wasonga and Laikipia University lecturers addressing journalists at Nakuru hotel during the Laikipia annual general meeting on 25 November 2017. [photo/ Harun Wathari]

More than 600,000 public university students may be sent home tomorrow as the strike action by lecturers begins to bite, with no solution in sight.

Yesterday, it emerged that university administrations had also moved to court to block their academic staff from going on strike.

At the same time, unions have rejected conciliatory meetings aimed at seeking a solution to the sticky issues in impending salary talks between them and universities administrations.

Yesterday, the government and university workers' unions engaged on blame game even as it became clearer that students were likely to lose more study hours starting Monday.

Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani accused the workers’ unions of failing to turn up for reconciliation meetings. He also criticised universities for rushing to court.

Accusing the unions of acting in bad faith, Mr Yattani said all channels of talks had not been exhausted when the academic staff started their strike.

“The union failed to turn up for a conciliation meeting in spite of all attempts to reach them. Instead, they called their members to commence the strike from midnight of February 28,” said Yatani.

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But University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Secretary General Constantine Wasonga yesterday said the talks have not reached conciliation level.

“We have not reached the level where we need a mediator. All we need is a counter offer,” said Wasonga.

In their list of demands, Uasu wants the 2017-21 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiated, signed and implemented. The lecturers also want the housing scheme available to other civil servants.

“Lecturers, including professors of medicine, do not receive the same medical attention they give to others. The post-graduate students we teach earn higher pay than we do,” he said.

The battle exposes the more than 600,000 students in all public universities, who already lost many academic weeks to strikes last year, to an indefinite spell of no learning.

Inter Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum chairperson Paul Kanyari said the government had demonstrated good faith by honouring past deals.

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