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Kenya Teachers Union Says Denying Salary Increase an 'Historical Injustice'

FILE - General view of an empty classroom at St Mary Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 6, 2011, because of a teachers' national strike.

Kenyan students have been absent from school since the beginning of the month due to a national teachers strike. Despite the lack of instruction, many students are still scheduled to start taking national exams next month.

The Kenyan government has ordered public and private schools across Kenya closed, as a national teachers strike reaches its third week. Many private schools are ignoring the order issued Friday, but public schools are unable to do so.

Teachers and students are waiting for the Kenya National Union of Teachers and the government to resolve salary issues. Teachers are demanding a 50 to 60 percent pay increase.

Union Secretary General Wilson Sossion addressed the issue Monday at a news conference. “The so-called ‘harmonization’ of 2009 failed to factor in that between 1997 and 2009 [both years inclusive] teachers were denied the four percent annual salary increment given to all other public servants,” he said. “It is this historical injustice that the judgment of the employment and labor relations court sought to partly ameliorate.”

The Supreme Court previously ordered a 50 to 60 percent pay increase for teachers, but the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta argued teachers are paid well enough already and it does not have funds available to fulfill the court’s mandate.

Sossion said the government should obey the court, alluding to funds that could be available. “Significantly, the president’s statement made no mention of the billions lost through corruption and tax evasion,” he explained.

National exams are scheduled to start in October.