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Solve teachers’ allowances row once and for all

By - | May 5th 2013

Schools open on Monday with huge uncertainty on study time as teachers unions have threatened to boycott class again.

Yet the issues cited by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) are not entirely new.

Last year, the union withdrew its members from class demanding that the legal notice no 16 of 2003 be invalidated to pave way for full enjoyment of the perks negotiated in 1997and state agreed to pay.

The same issue was again the subject of another strike in February, though it was stopped even before it kicked off. After the protracted fight between the state and the teachers union that lasted about three weeks last year, the matter was referred to the House Committee on Delegated Legislation.

Knut had argued they did not participate in the minutes culminating in the gazette notice, which they said amended the perks as were agreed upon in 1997.

They also challenged then Education minister, the late Mutula Kilonzo to produce the said minutes to prove the unions were in agreement that the said allowances be amended.

This never happened. The minister never attended any Committee meetings. Consequently, the House Committee did investigations and in their report, among other issues, it recommended the legal notice be gazetted as it was not properly done. Even with this recommendation, it has still been difficult for the concerned arms of the state to comply.

Talks between the union and Government under the watch of a conciliator also collapsed. But with reports that the consequence of invalidating the notice means the state should part with some Sh24 billion calls for more dialogue with the unions.

With proper dialogue, the concerned parties can forge the way forward. And if it means compliance with the law then the payment could be done in phases taking cognizance of economic growth and other factors as would be agreed upon.

Sadly, any time next week, the school calendar may again be interrupted because of the same demand Knut has put forward.

According to the Labour Relations Act, the failure of the talks and generation of the letter of disagreement means teachers may have a field day as their strike would be protected.

But it is our view that Knut should also be realistic in its demands and have the interest of students. Other ways of engagement should be explored other than strikes. Kenyans should not allow the misunderstanding between the state and teachers unions interrupt the school calendar again.

Last year, examinations calendar was interrupted as teachers went for a three weeks strike. The impact spread to the release of the national examination results and Form One admissions.

And last month, study time was interrupted with Form Ones only spending less than 30 days in school.

The Government should not allow avoidable interruptions to affect normal learning this year. Not any more.

Part of this should be to ensure teachers concerns are listened to and addressed once and for all. It should also include timely release of the free education cash to enable teachers plan early.

There is absolutely no reason to disrupt learning in schools. Whenever there are issues between teachers and the Government, dialogue should supercede any other actions.

In the 21st century, no stakeholder should seek solutions to disputes outside those prescribed by the law.


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