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Kenya Teachers Strike Continues Despite President’s Plea

Teachers demonstrate outside Kenya's Parliament Buildings in the capital Nairobi, September 7, 2011.
Kenya’s teachers will continue their strike despite calls by President Mwai Kibaki for them to return to work, according to a teachers’ union leader.

Akello Misori, secretary-general of the Kenyan Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET), made the vow after union officials held talks with parliamentarians Tuesday in an effort to end the teachers strike.

Misori said the government had yet to demonstrate a commitment to meet teachers’ demands for better working conditions.

President Mwai Kibaki called for a speedy resolution to the stalemate between the government and the striking teachers.

“Let us be reasonable in our demands and always give dialogue a chance in resolving any misunderstandings that may arise,” the president said.

But Misori said the government does not appear to be in a hurry to break the deadlock in negotiations.

“The president’s statement did only start a process of negotiation from the government side,” Misori said. “But it lacked one principle of giving clear direction of which kind of negotiations should the government side put. Especially, in an event that they had not even put any tangible proposal to allay the crisis, which is already at hand.”

Parliamentarian Ephraim Maina suggested that high-ranking public servants, including members of parliament, have their pay cut to enable the government meet the demands of the striking teachers.

Kenya media quoted Maina as saying, “There is no justification as to why top civil servants and MPs continue earning huge salaries while the teachers who toil so much earn peanuts,” Maina continued. “At this time when the cost of living is very high how can a teacher survive on 15, 000 shillings [$179] a month? We need the government to come up with proposals to solve the situation.”

But Misori dismissed the suggestion of top level government pay cuts as no more than a publicity stunt.

"That view cannot be shared because many of our parliamentarians are only talkers. They want to play populists with the issue,” he said.

Some Kenyans have expressed concern the teachers strike will undermine the school calendar year as well as hamper students’ preparation for an upcoming examination.

Misori noted that there is public concern that a prolonged teachers’ strike could set back students’ education and said the government needed to act quickly to resolve the labor dispute.

“If you make a teacher to go to a class to prepare candidates when he or she is not properly motivated, then the circumstance is that proper education is not taking place,” Misori said.

University teachers also have begun a strike to press their demands for better working conditions.

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