Kenya National Union of Teachers should call off recent strike order

There are disturbing statements coming out of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) with just weeks before schools open for the final term of the year.

The union’s National Executive Committee has resolved to urge its members to go on strike on September 1, if the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) fails to pay the salary increment granted by the High Court in June.

The resolution was made at a time the TSC has gone to the Supreme Court to challenge a ruling ordered by the Employment and Labour Court and the Court of Appeal after the High Court awarded teachers a pay increment of between 50 to 60 per cent dated back to July 1, 2013.

The TSC, which is the employer of teachers in public schools, has argued that it does not have the funds to comply with the court order and pay salaries with the increment levels that were announced, especially because it would have to make the payments cover the period between July 1, 2013 and July 30, 2015. It contends that this amount was not factored into the 2015/2016 budget.

While it is not in our place to argue about the merits and demerits of the case before the Supreme Court, we hold the view that strike action coming barely three months before the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations will work to the detriment of the hundreds of thousands of learners preparing for the crucial tests.

It should not be lost on observers that it is learners in public schools who tend to suffer when their teachers go on strike, leaving them severely disadvantaged, while students from private schools continue with their studies uninterrupted.

We should hope that by making public its strike notice, Knut is not issuing a veiled threat in an attempt to influence the Supreme Court to make a ruling that works in its favour. Not only would that be unfortunate, it would also be in contempt of the very court they want to adjudicate in this matter.