Teachers in Kenya embark on ‘infinite’ strike

Kenya’s National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and the Kenyan Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) recently declared they will embark on an ‘infinite strike’. The Secretary-General of Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), Wilson Sossion, announced that teachers will stay away from classrooms until the government pays the promised 50%-60% rise in wages. The expected rise in teachers’ salary was the ruling of a Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in Kenya, on June 30 2015, but the government has yet to implement the change.

According to the government, their delay is a reflection of a lack of resources. Kenya’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Rotic explained that the increase in salary was not included in the budget for 2015 and it would be difficult to account for Sh1.4 billion per month and 11 billion a year. However, KNUT lashed back at the government saying the pay order would not hurt Kenya’s budget in any way- rather, the government should address the impact of issues like corruption and tax evasion on their salary increase.

Earlier in the year, the teachers rejected government’s salary offer insisting that the union would continue the on-going strike at the time, until there was an increase in basic salaries. Kenya’s independent government body, which manages human resource within the education sector, Teachers Service Commission (TSC), declared the strike illegal. The Industrial Court did not support TSC’s declaration but instead called for negotiations between both parties.

The union is unlikely to reverse their decision of going on an ‘infinite strike’ because of the ‘promise and fail’ experience they have experienced with the government in the past. In 2013, a return-to-work agreement was signed by the government in a bid to make teachers call of the strike at the time. However, the government failed to deliver on paying salaries for the days teachers stayed off work.

This crisis is set to disrupt the national examination time-table. The Kenyan Certificate of Secondary Education (KSCE) exam is scheduled to hold at the end of the month and the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) by November. The fate of the students lies in hands of the union and the government.

The incessant battle between KNUT and the government has crippled the education system. Until both parties come to agreement students remain at home.

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