More than three weeks since the Kenyan teachers downed their tools, no respite seems to be on the horizon for the crisis that has plagued public schools. At the centre of the animosity between the teachers and the government is a 50-60% pay rise awarded by the Industrial Court earlier this year.
Both sides of the divide – the teachers on the offensive and the government on the defensive – have maintained a hardliner position on the issue at hand.
Consequently, the government has gone ahead to close down all schools; both private and public.
But the debate took an interesting twist yesterday when President Uhuru Kenyatta laid bare interesting facts that the teachers unions -both KNUT and KUPPET – have either intentionally ignored or deliberately distorted to their own advantage. These revelations could be crucial in helping Kenyans understand the reality of the situation at hand and therefore rationally determine who between the teachers and the government is on the wrong side of the argument.
These facts are:
- There has been no final determination on the award of 50-60% payrise for the teachers. The TSC and SRC appeal on the issue will be heard on Tuesday 22nd September 2015.
- The Supreme Court did not make any determination regarding the award: it decided only that it lacked jurisdiction to hear an application challenging the exercise of discretion by the Court of Appeal.
- If the award were paid to teachers, the SRC would be forced to harmonise wages across the entire public sector. Based on last year’s tax revenue, our wage bill would rise from 52% to 61% revenue collected.
- The TSC has progressively enhanced the terms and conditions of teachers, and they have now been brought up to par with other civil servants. Right now, a teacher in Kenya is paid the same as other civil servants with similar qualifications and responsibilities. A P1 certificate-holder enters the service at job group G, with other public servants of similar qualifications. Moreover, a graduate teacher enters public service at job group K, the same as engineers and other specialized professionals.
- The 150-200% pay rise awarded to teachers in 1997 has been settled in full. A P1 teacher who earned a gross salary of Ksh 7,762 then now earns a minimum of KSh 23,692, while the highest paid teacher who took home KSh 35,886 then now earns a minimum of KSh 140,089.
- Kenya’s teachers are the third-highest paid on the continent, after Morocco and South Africa both of whose economies are larger ours. Indeed, Kenyan teachers earn more than their counterparts in the East African region.The lowest-paid teacher in Kenya earns seven times as much as his counterpart in Burundi.The lowest paid teacher in Uganda earns the equivalent of KSh. 7,600; the lowest paid in Tanzania KSh. 15,800, compared to the lowest-paid Kenyan teacher who takes home over Ksh. 23,000.
- In the current financial year, KSh174 billion was set aside to pay teachers, up from KSh 139 billion last year. If the award were paid, we would have to find an additional KSh 118 billion, to meet the salary and pension obligations of the award. To pay this award, we would have to raise VAT from 16% to 22%, OR borrow more money OR suspend critical development programs and essential services in health, in education and in security. None of these options is tenable.
Therefore, are the Kenyan justified to keep our children out of school?