The month of September has seen Kenya’s Education sector undergo, what may go down as the most pivotal teachers’ strike in the sectors history. This being part of a court dispute over pay rise, itself born out of a series of strikes running all the way back to 1997.
This year’s industrial action was triggered Kenya government refusing to implement a court ruling, on a case which the government itself has initiated, to implement 50-60% pay for teachers across the board.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers, and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers, called a strike and one month of litigation and closed (public) schools later, teachers are reporting back to class with no hope or real proof that the next round of arbitration will bring about the pay increases (and likely without September salaries) that they have fought so long for.
The government stance, highlighted by a lengthy speech President Uhuru Kenyatta, attempted to frame the conflict as an issue of greedy, under-performing attempting to milk yet more perks from an overstretched and ‘development focused’ government.
Which would have worked if the government in question had not already demonstrated an appetite for the pork barrel politics of rampant corruption, cronyism, and excess spending, not to mention attempting to curb freedom of association and expression, in their attempt to fight terror.
Even in spite of that, the main opposition/government in waiting, managed to trivialize rather than capitalize on the crisis. Dressed as school kids, they purported to launch a ‘solidarity fund’ through which they would raise funding to pay the teachers salary in the interim, as they awaited the conclusion of their suit. No word on what they will do with the money, however much has been raised
The Judicial System, brought into this dispute as a mediator, found that with both government, and the union leadership (on the grounds that the government had no qualms) defying and ignoring a succession of its rulings totally sidelined. Its ability to enforce its own judgements, and independence as a whole brought into doubt
Either way, students, many of whom are set to sit primary school and high school exams in the coming weeks, find themselves the biggest losers, in a dispute not of their own making and likely to flare up again in the not too distant future.