Kenya govt asks for more time to hire teachers
Kenyan Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta said on Wednesday the government could not afford to hire new teachers as demanded by thousands who went on strike this week paralysing schools in the east African country.
Classrooms have remained shut for more than 10 million students at the start of the term when students sit national exams after about 200,000 members of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) stayed away.
KNUT says it wants 28,000 new teachers hired on a permanent basis to cope with a surge in students after President Mwai Kibaki introduced free primary and secondary education.
Kenyatta told parliament some of the teachers had agreed to short-term contracts and that he had used most of the spare cash at his disposal to pay higher salaries to the military.
Kenyatta also said additional money had been diverted to implement the country’s new constitution, which was promulgated in August last year. He did not say when the government would be able to pay for new teachers.
“We agreed, Mr Speaker, that as we now face the challenges of the implementation of the new constitution and other challenges that we need to buy more time,” said Kenyatta.
“Under the four year normal salary negotiations, the military salaries were due after having already paid police and teachers … and we had no choice but to pay the money for the military’s salaries.”
The teachers have vowed to continue their strike until the government agrees to hire 10,000 more teachers, and to sign permanent contracts for 18,000 teachers currently working on a short-term basis.
TEACHERS MARCH IN CAPITAL
About 200 teachers marched in the capital Nairobi waving placards saying: “Uhuru has taken our baby’s milk, shame on you!”, “No employment, no teaching!” while others chanted “the donkey is tired” as they blasted vuvuzelas.
“We want to hear from the ministers of education and finance. The issue we have is employment of 28,000 teachers and early childhood teachers that the government had promised,” said Hesbon Otieno, a union spokesman.
“As long as the government refuses to employ the teachers, the strike will continue,” Otenio said.
The strike has affected about 11.1 million students in primary and secondary schools countrywide.
At the Moi Avenue School, named after Kenya’s former President Daniel arap Moi, 14-year-old Joan Jepchumba, played teacher by taking the class through some science questions written on the board by another student.
Above the board, a slogan read: “My own resolve to succeed is more important than the teacher watching over me.”
“I’m the only teacher here,” Eunice Mlati, the school’s head teacher said. None of her colleagues had reported all week, and fewer than 25 students in the senior class were present.
On a normal day, the school would be abuzz with activity as 600 students in checked blue uniform attend classes.
When asked why she was not at home like her peers, Jepchumba said: “KCPE is not on strike”, referring to the end of year national examinations which are due in about three months.reuters