More than 280,0000 teachers in Kenya have for the past week been on strike. I have followed the action for the last two weeks and the affair that at first was deemed of minimal consideration has completely paralyzed learning in schools. The blame game is in full gear and the test of egos between the government and the teacher's officials is in taking shape as neither of the two sides want to recede ground. The teachers strike is sending mixed feelings here in Thika. For one the teachers in Thika are solidly conjoined with the national body assertion that no teachers should step into class until their demands are fully meant. On the other hand a lot of people feel that the 300% demanded by the teachers can only be supported by a world super power economy and not by a developing country like Kenya.
15 years ago, the then government headed by President Moi and represented on the table by Joseph Kamotho penned an agreement that would see the teacher awarded a 300% hike on their salary. The current teacher strike derives its cause from the agreement that the was never honored by the then and current governments. Thats why the teachers feel they have a genuine and justified reason to down the chalk and hit the streets singing trade unionist songs that have become a darling of striking Kenyan workers.
Are the teachers justified to go on strike?
A large part of the public feel that the strike is wrong timed since it comes just few months before the primary and secondary school final exams kick off. In reality this is punitive to the poor kids who are greatly in need of their teachers on their final lap. This strike will for sure have casualties come February when the KCPE and KCSE results are out. Which begs the question, are the students being used as collateral damage or just mere victims of circumstances caught up in a war between two giants.
Teachers are a very focal group of civil servants. Majority of us in nice jobs or speaking that flawless English owe a lot to our teachers. Apart from our parents, teachers are the main moulders of character, knowledge and morals. Personally I owe a lot to my former History Teacher and I remember holding her in awe whenever she strutted into class since I considered her to be quite rich considering she was a high school teacher. Years later reality on the plight of the teachers dawned on me when some of my friends took teaching jobs with the government and i saw copies of their pay slips. This changed my initial perception about the fat pay awarded to teachers.
They are a vital part of the society and for that they deserve a good pay. To make matters worse the teachers were promised an increment which to date has been ignored. I was talking to a disgruntled teacher who felt that the government has always forgotten them while still expecting them to to mould the Kenyan children into smart,wise and morally upright citizens. He claims that MPs earn hundreds of thousands with no clear legacy on the life of Kenyans like the Kenyans teachers do.When doing my research I came across different views on the strikes. According to Mwalimusmart a website dedicated to making the work of teachers and students simpler through online learning resources, harmonization of pay is paramount. "We cannot be equal in salaries scale but surely a teacher deserves a better deal ".
Today marks the second week of the strike and just like the other parts of the country, Thika has felt the effect of the strike. Many secondary schools have been forced to send their students home with many schools remaining closed. To be honest, the strike is biting. So what happens, how will the teachers react to the threat by the government to stop their pay if they don't return to work?. The teachers officials seem unmoved since they claim they cannot be given threats while at the same time be expected to be on the negotiation table.
The economy has been hard on the country and the teachers feels that they need to be empowered in terms of pay hikes just like the other civil servants. Reminds me, even trainee doctors at KNH are also on strike and as well, the university lecturers. What is going on in our beautiful country. I still love my country and believe that an amicable solution will be adopted to save our 2012 candidates. So, as the strike hits the second week I look forward to a positive communication from the government and the teachers officials that is fair to all parties.
picture courtesy of Google