October 09, 2002 2 min read
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Kenyan Strike

Teachers are on strike throughout Kenya to protest the government’s refusal to implement pay raises promised in 1997.

Nearly 240,000 teachers left their classrooms in the East African nation on Sept. 25, a walkout that has effectively stopped instruction in the country, according to John Musambayi Katumanga, the president of the Kenya National Union of Teachers.

The upheaval that has resulted from the strikes has been blamed for the death of one student and injuries to another.

The Ministry of Education agreed five years ago to a five-phase plan that would increase teachers’ salaries by 150 percent to 200 percent, Mr. Katumanga said. But teachers have seen only one salary increase—35 percent for the highest-paid teachers and 45 percent for the lowest-paid teachers—since that time, he said.

In 1998, teachers attempted to strike to protest the low pay, but at that time, the ministry refused to negotiate. Now, Mr. Katumanga said, the strikes will continue until the ministry agrees to negotiate with the union.

“We have told them to offer something on the table,” said Mr. Katumanga, who added that government officials have said that the country does not have enough money to offer raises to the teachers.

Officials with the Ministry of Education could not be reached for comment.

But according to newspaper accounts, Henry Kosgey, the education minister, has declared the strikes illegal and threatened teachers with disciplinary action if they do not return to work.

The education minister also has reportedly pledged to hire replacements for any teachers who did not return to work.

Trouble has erupted throughout the country as a result of the strike, local newspapers have reported.

For example, according to Kenyan papers, teachers who have chosen not to leave their classrooms have been caned in front of their students by union officials.

A 13-year-old boy was killed by a taxi while trying to return home after he was turned away from school. And a 15-year old girl was seriously injured when she fell out of a first-story window at her school in Nairobi after chasing other students through the building.

Meanwhile, demonstrations have been held in several towns, and some protesting teachers were injured when police hurled tear gas at them in an effort to disperse the crowds.

Mr. Katumanga dismissed the newspaper stories, saying that they were exaggerated.

—Michelle Galley


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