The Government has pleaded with teachers to shelve their planned strike come next week and embrace dialogue to avoid subjecting learners to suffering.
Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi appealed to teachers’ unions to rescind their decision and instead give talks a chance to address the demands they had tabled.
“While negotiations are ongoing, I wish to appeal to the unions to consider the plight of the Kenyan child who is the most adversely affected if teaching is paralysed in our public schools,” said Kaimenyi.
He made the plea in an attempt to forestall a strike announced by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) when schools re-open on January 6, next year.
But Knut and its counterpart, Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), have said their members will boycott duty when schools re-open next week on Monday.
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Knut has vowed to resort to industrial action come next week, accusing the Government of taking them in circles.
“Teachers have given dialogue a chance in 26 sessions. Instead of the Government reciprocating, it has resorted to taking the teachers in circles. The Government is not serious,” said union chairman Mudzo Nzili.
He said the last time teachers signed a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was 17 years ago, accusing the State of using the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to derail the pay talks that have lasted since September.
Kuppet has also called on the National Governing Council to tomorrow (Wednesday) ratify the move to down tools next week.
Union secretary general Akello Misori told The Standard on phone that they had given the teachers’ employer up to tomorrow to complete the talks, failure to which they will resort to industrial action.
“We want to give the Government a benefit of doubt that we can still reach a deal. I understand that they have called us for a meeting on January 3, but if nothing comes out of this meeting, then we shall have no other option,” he warned.
Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni confirmed that a meeting between the commission and teachers’ unions had been scheduled for January 3 at TSC headquarters that could avert the planned strike.
But the Education boss insisted that even as negotiations go on, the role of SRC and TSC must be respected.
He pointed out that only these two institutions are mandated to set salaries and other allowances paid to teachers.
It is this hardline stance that is irking teachers, with Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion insisting that SRC ‘s mandate is only to advice the Government on issues of salaries for State officers and not teachers.
Sossion argued that the commission had been overstepping its mandate from issuing an advisory opinion to setting salaries and allowances, and even meddling in the affairs of the union and the Government in CBA negotiations.
“Whereas SRC is mandated to offer advice to the relevant governments, it has taken upon itself the role of making decisions on the remunerations. We will use the opportunity once we are on strike to collect as many signatures as possible to disband SRC. We feel it is a waste of taxpayers’ money,” he said.
Sossion said only the teachers employer should handle all matters concerning teachers’ welfare as stated in the Constitution, vowing his union will protect the commission at all costs.
Kaimenyi noted that when teachers and the Government fight over issues of pay, it is children who suffer and wants teachers to consider the many pupils and students who will be affected once the strike begins.
He said the State recognises challenges experienced by teachers in accommodation, insecurity in some parts of the country, lack of adequate infrastructure in some schools, but called for dialogue over the same.