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Kenya Parents Group to Sue for Fees Over Teachers' Strike

Teachers demonstrate outside Kenya's Parliament Buildings in the capital Nairobi September 7, 2011. Many Kenyan state schools remained closed on Tuesday after thousands of teachers went on strike to try to force the government to increase their numbers.

The General Secretary of the Kenyan National Parents Association says the organization will file a suit next week to seek a court ruling that would force the government to reimburse parents for the fees they paid.

This, after the administration ordered both public and private schools to be closed beginning on Monday following an ongoing strike by teachers who are demanding a pay raise.

General Secretary Musau Ndunda also says the parents support the decision of the government to close the schools. He adds that the estimated 12 million students would be vulnerable to violence often carried out by members of the Somali-based militant group al-Shabab.

“It’s quite unfortunate that the government has closed down schools in the country, but on the other hand, we feel that the moves that the government has taken is quite ok, because of the insecurity that we have in the country,” said Ndunda.

“[But] the reason why we are going to court is to ensure that the fees that the parents have paid and have not been utilized there is need for them to be refunded, because by the government now closing the schools and saying that the calendar year has ended, then we have a loss of almost 12 weeks that have not been utilized.”

Striking teachers say they are not deterred by the decision of the government to close all schools. They insist that they would only return to the classrooms only if the administration pays them the 50-60 percent pay raise as recently ordered by a court. But the government says it does not have the funds to pay the teachers.

The parents’ organization has urged both the government and the teachers to resolve the impasses over the pay dispute.

Students are seen outside their classrooms on the second week of a national teachers' strike, at Olympic Primary School in Kenya's capital Nairobi, September 9, 2015.
Students are seen outside their classrooms on the second week of a national teachers' strike, at Olympic Primary School in Kenya's capital Nairobi, September 9, 2015.

Ndunda says both parties have to ensure they do right by the parents and students to resolve their disagreement.

“Whatever the teachers were given, they were given by the court and in a matter that the government should uphold the rule of law. We are saying the government should comply with what the court decided. And if the government feels they don’t have the money, then of course they can use the same court to appeal and say that as a government we are unable to raise this kind of money,” said Ndunda.

The teachers have often accused the administration of finding funds to pay other public sector workers but refuse to meet their pay increases despite a court ruling.

Supporters of the government say the demands of the teachers are unreasonable. They said the teachers should negotiate with the administration to resolve the impasse.

“If the government has the political will, I believe even if they would not be able to give 50-60 percent they should be able to negotiate an offer. But when they take an adverse stance then think everything gets worse,” said Ndunda.