Unions oppose State plan to privatise public universities

Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) National Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Three University staff bodies, University Academic Staff Union (UASU), Kenya Universities Staff Union (KUSU) and KUDHEIHA Workers, have opposed the proposal to privatise public universities.

A fortnight ago, Trade and Investment CS Moses Kuria revealed that there were plans by the government to privatise the public institutions and that talks with international investors were underway.

"I am in talks with international investors who are willing and ready to come and partner with our universities to privatise some of them. I am not saying all," he said.

In a statement on Sunday, the university workers jointly argued that commercializing higher education would pose a challenge to the 100 per cent transition policy.

While shifting blames to the state for failing to invest in quality higher learning, the staff unions also say the move will deny learners from poor or rural areas a chance to pursue education.

“We Unions in public universities reject the idea of privatization of public universities,”

“This is a slap in the face of a 100 per cent transition policy in basic education. It will deny the poor Kenyan child the right to education and only benefit those from rich families. Further, it is a threat to the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 4 and the objectives of the African Union's Continental Education Strategy for Africa. Government failure to invest in education The government of Kenya has failed to keep its promise to invest in quality education for all,” the joint statement reads.

Moreover, the unions want staff redundancy declaration by public universities stopped over what they termed as a 'lack of stakeholder involvement'.

“We condemn and warn Kisii, Rongo, Moi and Egerton Universities for leading in irregularly declaring staff redundant without stakeholder involvement,”.

According to their statement, the university staff want stakeholders involved before any redundancies are made. They propose stakeholder discussions to find out the challenges facing public universities.

“The unplanned and irregular massive declaration of staff of universities redundant is knee-jerk reaction and uncalled for.  It is not the panacea of problems facing these institutions of higher learning,”

“First, stakeholders must sit to brainstorm on what ails these institutions and come up with long-lasting solutions and way forward,”

In December last year, Egerton University laid of about 1500 workers over its financial difficulties which made it unable to pay its staff salaries which are in arrears.

“Following the difficulties, the university has undergone in meeting the full requirements for staff and other emoluments and benefits, the University Council on advice has reached a decision to declare staff redundancies across all cadres of staff in a bid to manage the wage bill,” said the notice signed by Prof Richard Mulwa the Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Administration read.

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