For the second day, Kenya's six state universities are closed as more than 3,000 lecturers are striking for better pay.

At a news conference, Kenyan Catholic Church's Commissioner of Education Bishop John Njue urged the government and the University Academic Staff Union to return to the bargaining table in good faith.

"It is our prayer and hope that the entire negotiation process will totally be de-politicized by all the parties concerned," he said.

The country's university lecturers have been trying to negotiate a pay raise with the education ministry since March.

The chairman of the union's Nairobi chapter, Samuel Nyandemo, says the government has taken too long to respond, which is why the lecturers did not report to work on Monday. The government subsequently closed the institutions, saying it is not possible to keep students on campus when there is no teaching.

It urged the union to delay the strike until February, when it says it would be ready to implement a new salary scheme for the lecturers.

Mr. Nyandemo explains that the lecturers' current base salaries, not including housing allowances, range from about US$200-400 a month.

The union is asking for a base monthly salary of just more than $2,000 for a tutorial fellow, and more than $10,000 for a full professor, as well as 50 percent in housing and commuting allowances.

"We are not asking much," he said. "We are asking to be paid as per our colleagues in the region and all over the world, particularly in the commonwealth."

Mr. Nyandemo says the union is waiting to see the government's counter-offer.

At a news conference Monday, Education Assistant Minister Kilemi Mwiria told reporters the union ignored assurances that the government would review the salaries and issue a new salary package early next year. He said union officials were "engaging in a campaign of misinformation and insults." He also said the union must follow government procedures in seeking the pay raise.

This is the second time in 10 years that Kenyan university lecturers have walked off the job to protest pay conditions. In 1994, the strike lasted for almost a year. Analysts noted the strike resulted in a brain drain, as many top academics decided to leave the country.