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Government, Knut agree on back-to-work formula

BUSINESS
By | September 10th 2011

By AUGUSTINE ODUOR

It is back to school after teachers signed a deal with the Government to employ 23,000 teachers.

The announcement came after a lengthy meeting between the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and Government officials.

On Friday night, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Knut and TSC signed an agreement at Treasury. Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) was conspicuously absent.

Present to witness were Education Minister Sam Ongeri, PS James ole Kiyiapi and Knut National Chairman Wilson Sossion.

Under the agreement, all the 18,000 teachers currently working on contract will be converted to permanent and pensionable staffers. Another 5,000 teachers will be employed in January.

This figure is, however, less 5,000 teachers from the 28,060 demanded by the Knut.

The union said the sole organ that reserves the right to call off the strike is its National Executive Council.

"We cannot make any announcement now. We will wait for the NEC to decide the fate of the strike," said Secretary General Okuta Osiany.

In their claim, Knut demanded the conversion of all the teachers on contract to permanent staff and employment of an additional 10,000 more, a request the Government termed unrealistic.

The announcement came a day after Uhuru said the Government would only employ more teachers on contract, as there were no funds available to employ them on permanent basis.

This is also after Parliament approved the Appropriations Bill after rejecting attempts to stall the crucial legislation by two MPs, who cited the Government’s failure to allocate some Sh5.5 billion for hiring teachers.

At a press conference on Wednesday night, Ongeri and Uhuru said the Government would only hire more teachers on contract basis. They said these teachers would then be employed immediately their contracts elapse after three years.

Under this proposal, 20,000 teachers would be hired on contract yearly for the next three years. "In three years, this will bring teacher deficit to 20,000 which will be a manageable figure," said Ongeri. Currently, the teacher deficit stands at 80,000.

Talks, however, went sour when Osiany dismissed Ongeri’s statement that the Government would hire more teachers on contract this year as a way of bridging the deficit.

"Under the Constitution, the TSC is an independent constitutional body and is the sole authority on teacher employment," Okuta protested.

Knut then maintained the strike is still on until the Government puts something ‘tangible’ on the table for discussion.

Osiany said teachers read a wider scheme by the Government to convert employment of all the teachers in the country to contract terms.

Early this week, the Government was in a tight spot as unions called for a nationwide strike, paralysing learning across the country.

Several meetings held by Government officials did not yield fruit as Knut stood their ground.

Pressure continued to pile on the Government yesterday to find a solution to the teachers strike as it entered day four.

Central Organisation of Trade Union (Cotu) and the Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) demanded that the government addresses the teacher shortage immediately.

Also chipping in were Mathira MP Ephraim Maina, Moi University Chancellor Bethwel Ogot and Masinde Muliro’s Student Governing Council.

Learning was paralysed across the country as education officials held consultations with their Finance counterparts and TSC officials in trying to reach a deal last night.

The teachers employed on contract demonstrated in Nairobi streets and later marched to Parliament building.

Waving placards, the teachers said they were exploited as they took home a net salary of less than Sh3,000.

Figures from TSC indicate Sh2.4 billion is spent annually to pay the 18,000 contracted teachers.

The crisis facing public learning institutions was bound to worsen following a directive by Kuppet to teachers in secondary and tertiary institutions to down their tools.

Kuppet’s National Governing Council on Thursday directed their members to close the institutions until the Government employs 28,000 teachers as per their demands.

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