By Eurie Hwang
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) entered its third week of nationwide strike over increased allowances. They demand the new government implement the $552 million-pay deal the teachers union signed with previous governments. Since they began their strike on June 25, public primary and secondary school classrooms remain empty of students. This includes St. Paul’s Primary School in Nakuru, the former primary school of sponsored students Vilitracia, Triza, and Peris.
Difficulties amounting to a fair negotiation ignited heated threats by the Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi.
“If you abandon duty, you will be deemed to have absconded and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken in line with the law,” said Kaimenyi.
The KNUT, saying such threats were made in the past with no consequences, is not taking his threats seriously.
“Teachers went on strike with a purpose and that purpose has not yet been achieved. Do you expect us to go back to class?” said KNUT’s Second Vice National Chairman Wycliffe Omucheyi.
Their reasons may be just but the children need them in class. Every day, many students return home after arriving at school and finding classrooms still empty.
“The teachers should be reasonable because the children are really suffering out here. They are not reading and in the end there is going to be an examination [KCPE, the end of primary school exam] which they might fail,” said a parent whose child attends a public school.
The KNUT was successful in staging another crippling three-week strike last year for increased salary.
Weeks without class are one of the difficulties faced by the public school students in Kenya. The three students we are sponsoring scored well on their end of primary school exam despite last year’s strike and other impediments. They now attend a private Catholic school and so are not affected by the strike.