Teachers Strike: Has Kenyan Govt Forgotten Its Priorities? Job News Kenya
That a debilitating nationwide teachers’ strike now hangs like a dark cloud over the nation is a testament of the State’s floundering reform agenda in the sector.
But coming as it were, on an exam term – when Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and Kenya Certificate of Primary Education candidates are expected to sit their exams is damning statement about the
Government’s lopsided priorities.
All the more shocking are revelations that a huge chunk of money meant for employment of more teachers was relocated to the Department of Defence (DoD) – an outfit that has failed miserably to protect our borders from outside aggression.
A consultative meeting convened on Monday by the Government and teachers’ union officials collapsed after both parties failed to agree. The meeting chaired by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and attended by Kenya National Union of Teachers was aimed at hammering a deal over the stalemate over employment of 28,000 teachers.
But the parties failed to agree with the Government maintaining there was no money to employ teachers – and the teachers were poised to strike following a Knut National Executive Committee meeting, yesterday.
Whether the teachers are justified to call for the industrial action given the timing is a matter for debate – what is clearly evident, however, is that the education sector is reeling under dire constraints including falling standards, teachers and infrastructure shortage that need to be addressed.
The report by Uwezo, an initiative aimed at improving literacy and numeracy among children aged between five and 16 also found that 30 per cent of Standard Five pupils would fail the same problem while only 20 per cent of Standard Two pupils would be able to solve it. The study also found for every 1,000 pupils in Standard Eight, 50 cannot read a story intended for Standard Two, and one out of four children in Standard Five cannot make sense of the same story if they were asked to read it.
Yet in 2003 when the Narc Government came to power, education sector received a major boost after the Government introduced Free Primary Education – a development that saw unrivalled enthusiasm among the Kenyan public with old men registering to join Standard One.
However, a few years down the line, the enthusiasm has fizzled out being replaced by anxiety, anger and frustration especially after it emerged that Sh9 billion had disappeared from the FPE kitty.
Ideally, the country needs 70,000 more teachers urgently.
But Knut wants the 18,000 who had been employed on contract basis confirmed as permanent employees and 10,000 more hired to help bridge the gap.
And although an initial Sh5.5 billion had been set aside for this purpose the money has now been diverted to other uses including allocating DoD Sh6.4 million that it did not ask for nor required.
The Treasury now claims it cannot avail the money to pay teachers simply because it had spent more to deal with the famine situation in the country yet just recently the same office through KRA raided the emergency kitty to pay for political leaders’ accumulated taxes.
What is unfolding in the teachers’ strike saga is a story about a Government that has clearly forgotten its priorities – and more importantly – one that is working at cross purposes to hurt its own children and shoot itself in the foot.
By Dann Okoth writes for Standard Media Group.
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