President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta’s stand on the teachers’ salary dispute was received with a lot of hostility by Kenyan citizens; to be precise, the teachers of Republic of Kenya. The statement “I CANT PAY, WONT PAY” left a bitter taste in every teacher’s mouth and voila, the teachers became children of a lesser God.
The replacement of the teachers who were retiring between the month of June and December 2015 was ongoing. Some applicants had received posting letters during the month of August and were required to report to their work stations as the third term commenced. And now there was this teacher who had received an employment letter for her first posting. The excitement was building in her heart and even threatening to strangle her the morning schools opened on a Monday 31st August 2015. The previous night, she had pulled the posting letter from the drawer and read it once again, “You are hereby posted to X school in Y Sub County with immediate effect.” The statement assured her without any reasonable doubt of her employer’s commitment.
On 31st August 2015 she woke up as early as she could ready to start the day as a public servant. What that meant was; a new work station, new work mates new responsibilities and a new employer; The Teachers Service Commission. This was the kind of an employee who had never experienced any sort of strike in her entire working experience. This teacher had applied for the TSC vacancy numerous times and had stayed optimistic that one day, she would be absorbed in the system and do what she likes most- teaching.
At the X school the teacher was warmly received and official things done appropriately. First, she was introduced by the Headteacher of the school to the Deputy Headteacher, Senior teacher and lucky enough to the PTA chair-lady who was also present to welcome her to her new work station. Unfortunately, the poor teacher did not get an opportunity to be introduced to the pupils since the morning assembly had already been conducted by the time she reported for duty. The teacher was then given a register for a class whose teacher had not reported on that opening day. She was to take a roll call and teach the other teacher’s subjects before she could be allocated her own teaching subjects. She had the zeal for her work as compared to the other teachers who in their minds new the strike was looming. Later during the day, they had a briefing where the KNUT representative put it in black and white that all teachers were supposed to wait for the directive from the Secretary General William Sossion.
This newly posted teacher never had the slightest idea that the said strike would in the near future make her cross her fingers day in day out. On 1st September 2015, the teacher’s strike became a reality and all the energy the new teacher had, disappeared from her like air from a balloon burst. The strike became a monster which suffocated her in the days that followed. On the social media the headlines read; Teachers’ Salary Dispute, Teachers’ Pay Rise, I can’t Pay, I Won’t pay among other headlines, in regards to the whole issue of teachers payment. It is hard to tell what was going through the mind of the newly posted teacher, as the parties involved seemed to take the teachers for a ride. Just to put myself in her shoes, she had the fear of losing the job because of numerous threats from TSC to sack the striking teachers. When a teacher is posted by the TSC, a probation period of three months follows. Meaning that this newly posted teacher could end up being on probation for more months because she has not carried out her duties as expected by the employer.
Court orders from our distinguished courts to involved parties fell on deaf ears. It was now clear that the constitution of Kenya that was voted for by majority of citizens was being trampled upon. The whole issue of the teachers’ work boycott has taken another angle, making it a huge political monster. It is therefore paramount that the government in power does not realize the suffering and humiliation that workers go through during the strike. The threats have become nightmares and worse still, all the striking teachers have no salaries checking in. The government quickly forgets that these teachers are also citizens who have children to feed, school fees to pay and have basic needs taken care of. We need redemption.