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Good news for students, parents but bitter pill for teachers as unions suspend strike

By Augustine Oduor | October 4th 2015
Knut National Treasurer John Matiang'i (left), Chairman Mudzo Nzili(2nd left) Secretary-General Wilson Sossion and Jacinta Ndegwa during a press conference in which Kenya National Union of Teacher members will resume teaching starting Monday after respecting court orders. Photo by WILLIS AWANDU/STANDARD

It was a day of renewed hope for students, relief for parents, victory for the government but gnashing of teeth for teachers yesterday when their unions bowed to pressure and called off the strike.

Teachers across the country opposed the move and vowed not to engage in any other industrial action called by their union leaders in future (see separate story).

Standard Eight and Form Four candidates can now breathe a sigh of relief after the unions asked their members to supervise and invigilate this year’s national examinations.

“We can now announce that third term commences officially on Monday October 5. And to the National Examinations Council, we have now released the teachers to supervise examinations,” said Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Wilson Sossion.

Adding a rider to the announcement, Mr Sossion said the strike was suspended for only 90 days as ordered by Justice Nelson Abuodha and warned the government to prepare for another round of a protracted court battle if teachers’ September pay is not remitted.

“The judge ruled that there should be no victimisation. But teachers have not been paid their September salaries, third party deductions have not been remitted to cooperative movements and TSC is still holding on to the unions’ dues. We are warning them now to release the monies,” said Sossion.

In his ruling, Justice Abuodha directed that teachers go back to class immediately. The judge ordered the parties in the pay dispute to appoint an arbiter acceptable to all of them within 30 days to ensure that the 50-60 per cent pay rise is paid in full.

Top organs

Knut and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) suspended the strike yesterday morning after meetings of the respective top decision-making organs. “Only Knut has the mandate to ask teachers to strike and advise them to return to the classroom. We have come here to relieve you (government) of your perpetual stomachache,” said Sossion.

He said Knut respects the courts and noted that they have complied with court orders.

“For that reason, all teachers in Knut will resume teaching on Monday with and in obedience to orders by Justice Abuodha,” said Sossion. The strike lasted at least five weeks.

Kuppet Secretary General Akelo Misori also asked teachers in the union to resume work tomorrow.

“Having consulted our legal team on this matter, teachers should report to class and the union will devote itself to the due process of the law. We expect teachers to be paid as directed,” said Mr Misori.

He said the union believes in the rule of law whose tenets are grounded on separation of powers, respect for institutions and due regard to Constitution.

“The blatant disrespect and disregard for court orders by the government has led to untold suffering of Kenyan children, teachers and parents,” said Misori.

He said the suspension of the strike is not an act of cowardice but a tactical retreat. “We have to exhaust the court process and protect the teachers and our institutions from mischievous schemes,” said Misori. Knut chairman Mudzo Nzili faulted the government for selective application of the law.

Court orders

“We thank the Judiciary because they have remained steadfast. We request you not to be intimidated by other arms of government. But the Executive must also obey court orders as was directed by Justice Abuodha,” said Nzili.

Sossion said even though teachers have obeyed the orders, they were “unjust and unfair to teachers”.

“The orders should be implemented as a package. TSC and government are allowed to enjoy impunity. They disobeyed all the orders,” said Sossion.

Suspending the strike, the two teachers’ unions separately asked the government to extend the school term and the administration of national examinations. “We ask the Ministry of Education to urgently convene a stakeholders meeting on issues related to supervision of examinations and revision of the third term,” said Misori.

The unions defied the directive by Education PS Belio Kipsang that schools be opened last week on Monday. The PS had extended the school term by one week and directed that schools close on November 20, 2015. Kipsang said that no additional levies shall be charged on parents in the pretext of recovering costs occasioned by the pay dispute.

Term dates

“Considering that during the period of the pay dispute there was little learning in some schools while others did the full load as planned, it is directed that schools that bore the full effect of the dispute will extend the term dates by one week and forego the half term break,” said Kipsang.

Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi declined to reveal whether the school term dates would be subjected to another revision as requested by unions.

“No comment,” Kaimenyi responded, when asked.

Sossion yesterday asked the government to immediately release the free capitation funds to enable schools run smoothly.

“Money to keep children in schools and to purchase chemicals for practical examinations must be made available because we have now released them (teachers) to schools,” said Sossion. Alreday, Education CS Jacob Kaimenyi has sent a good will message to this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations (KCSE).

Kaimenyi congratulated the candidates for their dedication and hard work throughout the period of basic school education that has climaxed into their sitting for the national examinations.

“I must also congratulate you for the patience, self-discipline and resilience you displayed throughout this period,” Kaimenyi said in an open letter to the candidates.

He said security, integrity and credibility of the examinations if key and asked the candidates to avoid any temptations to cheat in the examinations. “The consequences of cheating are severe,” Kaimenyi said, adding they should tackle the examinations without undue influence.

Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) says 937,467 candidates will write the KCPE and another 525,802 candidates will sit KCSE exams. Kaimenyi thanked the teachers who have supported the candidates throughout as they prepared for the examinations. He said teachers are an important pillar in forging the knowledge, skills and other arsenals students need in tackling examinations and the life they lead long after formal education.

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