Kenya: Death and tears as TSC opts not to pay teachers

Kisii Primary School pupils at the assembly after teachers called off¬ the strike on October 5. [PHOTO: FILETHUKU/ STANDARD
NAIROBI: Teachers across the country are unable to pay their bills because the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has not released their September salaries.

And the TSC won’t offer any explanation for the delay despite the fact that the court has ordered that teachers’ salaries be paid unconditionally. Teachers interviewed in different parts of the country were in a state of hopelessness as they cannot fend for their families, pay rent and school fees.

CORD yesterday accused the government of frustrating teachers by denying them September salaries.

The Opposition leaders asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to take responsibility and speak to the country about the teachers’ pay crisis. (see separate story).

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TSC paid only 45,000 teachers who were on duty during the strike period out of the 288,00 despite being directed by Employment and Labour Relations Court not to victimise the tutors. The court further directed that teachers be paid their full salaries and allowances.

“Teachers have been left in a state of panic and confusion, visiting their banks and returning home with empty pockets every day. And no one is telling them if and when they will get their next pay and the reasons for the delay,” said the CORD statement.

HUMILIATION

Some teachers admitted that they were engaging in  small scale businesses to raise money for food as news spread that one of their colleagues in Nyandarua committed suicide over delayed payment.

Unable to withstand more suffering and humiliation, Patrick Irungu, a teacher at Kirera Primary School in Nyandarua County took his life on Tuesday night.

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According to his father, Gathenya Irungu, he found his son’s body hanging in his house after he visited his bank in Nyahururu on Tuesday and was shocked to find that there was no money.

Mr Irungu said the 38-year-old had asked him for some money to sort out pressing issues but he did not have any and he decided to check for the umpteenth time whether TSC had released his September salary. “When he came back, he looked very depressed and went to sleep early. The following morning, I tried calling him but he was not picking my calls and I got suspicious. I went to his house immediately only to find his body hanging from the roof,” he said.

Patrick’s widow, Mrs Hellen Irungu, narrated how the husband had travelled to his father’s home in Kiriogo on Monday to seek financial assistance.

“On the same day in the evening, he called to say the father did not have money and he hoped to travel to Nyahururu town the following day to check whether the Government had deposited their money,” Hellen told The Standard on Saturday yesterday. She said they live in a rented house in Salama village in lower Ndaragwa area where they have not paid rent because of the delayed salary.

“We had been struggling for the last two months since he is the only breadwinner. That is when we decided that he travels to seek assistance from the father so that we can feed our family,” she said on the phone.

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She explained that they did not have money to feed their two children as well as pay school fees.

Hellen recalled how they were happy when Patrick was employed at the school in January. “He had been yearning to get a job as a teacher and when he was employed by the Government, our lives changed for the better. It has now turned to the worse since it is the same employer that has caused his death,” she said.

Nyandarua North OCPD Morris Assila said that the body of the deceased was found hanging on a rope inside his house. Detectives have launched investigations to ascertain the cause of the suicide.

Nyandarua Kenya National Union of Teachers Executive Secretary Michael Chege demanded that the Government pays teachers their September salary to avoid such incidents.

“This is a teacher who was employed just the other day and having him commit suicide due to the failure by the government to pay him is a shame. This shows the hardships that our teachers are going through,” said Mr Chege.

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Another teacher from Ol-Rongai in Nakuru yesterday told The Standard on Saturday that the failure by government to release salaries had pushed him into misery.

The teacher through a text message said he has been ailing and could not go to hospital because he had no money to pay for the drugs.

“I am a teacher in Nakuru County. I have been undergoing treatment at Mathare Hospital in Nakuru but I cannot get medication since the government has denied us pay. I did not even participate in the strike because I was sick. Kindly help me air my predicament,” read the SMS from the teacher. Geoffrey Kibet, a teacher in Bomet said his four children have been sent home because he has not paid fees. Mr Kibet, who said his wife is also a teacher, fears that their children may not sit end of year examinations. And Peter Korir, also from Bomet said he has been forced to take one meal to save the little cash left.

“I feed my family on Ugali and beans for super because this is the only available food in the house. For Breakfast, we take black tea since the milk supplier stopped the service because of accruing debt,” said Korir.

Alfred Momanyi, who teaches in Narok, admits that life has been unbearable for teachers. Luckily for him, he has no family to feed and relies on meals served at school.

“It is quite unfortunate that after accepting to resume teaching, we are made to suffer,” he said.

LOOMING EVICTION

Gilbert Koech, also from Narok was forced to sell the only family cow he had to get fare to travel to Baringo County where he teaches.

He gave part of the money to his wife but he fears that it will be depleted before the end of the month.

“I fear that the little money I left to my wife after selling the cow is quickly running out. I have a young family and I know I won’t be able to meet their basic needs should the current situation continue,” he said. “I plead with the government to immediately release the September salaries for the sake of my young family.”

Same tribulations were shared by Leah Kariuki, a secondary school teacher in Narok town who expressed fear that she may be evicted because of rent areas. “The landlord is running out of patience and he will evict me if the government continues to withhold my salary,” she said.

Bomet Knut Branch Secretary Malel Langat said it is unacceptable for government to make teachers suffer.

— Stories by Charles Ngeno, Boaz Kipng’eno and James Munyeki

Teachers Service Commission (TSC)teachers strikekenya national union of teachers (knut)wilson sossion