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Kenya’s Teachers, Students Return to School as Strike Suspended

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.

Kenya’s employment and labor relations court ruled Friday that the country’s public school teachers must suspend their strike for 90 days. They have been out of their classrooms since September 1st, after demanding the government pay a court-ordered 50 to 60 percent increase in their salaries.

Classrooms across Kenya have been empty this month, as public school teachers continued a strike led by the Kenya National Union of Teachers, or KNUT and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers.

The government says it is unable to pay the 50 to 60 percent wage increase for teachers ordered by the Supreme Court in August.

Friday, a court instructed the teachers to suspend their strike. KNUT’s secretary general Wilson Sossion noted the strike isn't over.

“And the ruling is fantastic in the sense that it does not call off the strike. It suspends it for 90 days. Ninety days means up to January 2016,” Sossion said.

The court also ordered that within 30 days, the government and the teachers’ unions must appoint an individual or committee to help mediate a solution to the impasse.

Sossion said it was important that the court did not declare the strike illegal.

“We can’t be on strike forever and we weren’t ready to be on strike forever. There are examinations. We must allow exams to go on and the strike is suspended. That gives us a window of opportunity to allow other systems to take up the matter,” Sossion said.

The court also said the government's Teacher Service Commission is not allowed to penalize striking teachers and is required to pay their salaries and allowances in full.

Some Nairobi residents, like Evanson Musembi, say that teachers should end their strike entirely.

“Teachers should go to school, then the children learn. Personal interests should come later… no one is forced to go into the teaching industry. If you feel there is not enough pay there, go ahead and look for greener pastures,” Musembi said.

It remains unclear when the teachers will actually go back to classrooms. Union secretary general Sossion says they will return to court on Monday.