NAIROBI - Kenyan teachers have been on strike for nearly a month, demanding the government implement a 50 to 60 percent wage increase ordered by the Supreme Court. On Friday, another court ordered the teachers to suspend their strike, but the unions were waiting for a meeting with a judge Monday before instructing their members what to do.
Teachers and students across Kenya waited Monday to hear the result of an Employment and Labor Relations Court hearing that could end the national teachers strike.
But after a packed courtroom of teachers, union bosses, lawyers, and journalists waited 90 minutes to hear arguments, teachers’ union officials announced the judge was ill and would need to postpone the proceedings to Thursday.
In for the long haul
In the meantime, they said, the strike would go on. Akello Misori, secretary general of KUPPET, the Kenyan Union of Post Primary Education Teachers, spoke of a protracted fight ahead.
“The strike continues. This is a protected strike, this is a legal strike, and you can see we must be ready for a very long stretch,” Misori said.
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The secretary-general of the Kenyan National Union of Teachers, Wilson Sossion, gave his members similar advice.
“It is not rocket science. It is simple, then it means teachers continue remaining on strike absolutely until after Thursday when they can be advised, once we give our submissions and converse our arguments in court,” Sossion said.
English literature teacher Washington Odhiambo was present in the courtroom Monday, and said he supports the pay increase ordered by the Supreme Court.
“It will be difficult to bulldoze teachers back to work without a proper or a defined way through which they are going to get this award because it has already been awarded,” Odhiambo said.
Lack of funds cited
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has previously said the government does not have the funding to obey the court’s order, and the government's Teachers Service Commission has filed an appeal to overturn the Supreme Court's ruling.
But primary school teacher Henry Njenga is skeptical.
“The government is just unfair. I think they’re just doing this out of malice… He’s talking about billions for laptops - who is in that school to teach with the laptop? Why can’t we use that laptop money for now, then later on when we are settled and in school, they can bring up the laptop?” Njenga asked.
The government’s appeals court hearing is scheduled to take place Tuesday, two days before the unions go back to court.
But as officials take to the courtrooms, Kenya’s teachers and students remain out of class.