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July 01, 2013

Kenya Committed to Meet Teachers Demands

by Peter Clottey

Kenya’s government is committed to addressing the concerns of striking teachers who are demanding improved living conditions, a spokesman says.

Government spokesman Muthui Kariuku says President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration has agreed to talks with the teachers as part of an effort to meet their demands.

“The government’s take is that the teachers must go back to class [Tuesday], because failure to obey a court ruling can only lead to anarchy,” said Kariuku. “The government has agreed to sit down and discuss with the various stakeholders, and therefore, it is only fair that teachers go to class as the government negotiates with the various bodies that are mandated to discuss their welfare.”

Kariuku’s comments came after a court ordered the striking teachers to return to their classrooms on Tuesday.

But, Wilson Sossion, chairman of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), says members of the group will not return to the classroom despite of the court order.

“The government, hiding behind wrong legal advice from the office of the attorney general, is going to plunge the education sector in an unprecedented long … industrial action between the teachers of the government,” Sossion said, “The secretary general of the [KNUT], who in our constitution is the only one mandated to call a strike and to call it off. Not even the president of the republic can order teachers to go back to class if the secretary general has not said so.”

The teachers began the strike to press their demands that the government implement a 1997 agreement calling for improved living conditions.

Kariuku denied previous administrations have reneged on the agreement.

“Information available to me is that the government has actually honored all the agreements that were arrived at in 1997 and there are documents to that effect,” said Kariuku. “Therefore, it is erroneous for anybody to try and imply that the government has not acceded to what was agreed that time in 1997.”

Kariuku also says the government is committed to negotiations with the teachers.

“The government says if there are any areas that anybody within the teaching fraternity feels has not been honored, the government is willing to sit down, re-look at it, re-negotiate it, and then everything will be set right and then life must go on,” said Kariuku.

Kariuku also called on the teachers to show patriotism. He said the teachers should give the administration time to meet their demands since, the government was just recently took office.

“The government is willing to go to any length to ensure that this impasse is overcome and that nothing will disrupt the learning of the kids,” continued Kariuku, “[they] should think about the children and the future of this country. Be patriotic enough, go to school and the government will do what it is required to do.”
Clottey interview with Muthui Kariuku,Kenya government spokesman