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Kenya’s Teachers Return to Class as Strike Suspended

FILE - A class of children between the ages of six and seven years old pose for pictures in their classroom at Gifted Hands Educational Center in Kenya's Kibera neighborhood in the capital Nairobi, September 2015.

Kenya’s teachers and students have returned to class, after a five-week teachers’ strike was suspended. The country’s teachers’ unions called the strike at the beginning of the school year after the government said it was unable to pay a court-ordered salary increase.

Kenya's public school students and teachers returned to classrooms Monday, following the suspension of the national teachers’ strike. Teachers’ unions agreed to comply with a court order that will give them 90 days to negotiate salary terms with the government.

The government maintains it cannot afford to pay the mandated 50- to 60-percent wage increase.

Still, Shukri Abdiraham Maalim, a teacher at Jamhuri High School in Nairobi, said he is glad to be back at work.

“We are very happy to come back and help the students. Because students were suffering and they were doing nothing at home," he said. "And even the parents, they were complaining about keeping the children at home for doing nothing.”

Students' preparations

Some secondary students at Jamhuri insist they were using their free time productively, to prepare for upcoming exams.

Eleventh grader Stephen Kariuki said he is confident the strike will not affect his grades.

“I think we are going to excel because most of us were studying alone at home and some of us were coming at school to study. So I do not think that we have lost much, despite the teachers being away,” said Kariuki.

Twelfth-grader Edwin Ondara said he has been coming to school since the strike began to prepare for exams.

“We had few teachers, and few lessons, but today, I have seen a great change. Teachers are many in numbers, and they are taking their lessons very serious,” said Ondara.

And because of this seriousness, Kariuki said he hopes his teachers receive a good raise.

“Yeah, they should make more money because they are the ones who make everyone in the society, the politicians, the engineers. So, they should earn more than the politicians because they pass through their hands,” he said.

Kenya’s students and parents are grateful the strike is over for at least 90 days, but the long-term outcome of the strike remains unknown.

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