Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Teachers' strike: Public primary schools closed

By BENJAMIN MUINDI

Public primary schools have been closed indefinitely owing to the ongoing teachers' strike

The government said measures are in place to ensure Standard 8 pupils sit national examinations.

“The government hereby orders the closure of all public primary schools indefinitely, aware that primary school teachers continue to participate in an illegal and unconstitutional strike having refused to comply with legal directives of the Teachers Service Commission,” said Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi Wednesday.

The Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) said it was "shocked to learn" that Prof Kaimenyi has ordered the closure of public primary schools.

Cofek said the move was discriminatory as it did not affect learners in private schools.

"That the closure does not affect pupils in private schools, sitting for the same national examinations, can only amount to discrimination against majority pupils from humble backgrounds. This is contrary to Article 27(4) of the Constitution," the lobby said in a statement.

"Since the pupils and the striking teachers never posed a security threat, Prof Kaimenyi’s action was premature, ill-advised and one that confirms that the government is unwilling to negotiate over the teachers’ legitimate demands."

Cofek said Article 46 of the Constitution guarantees the right to goods and services, education to public primary schools included, of reasonable quality.

The lobby said it would seek legal action over the matter.

"Based on all these grounds, Cofek has instructed its lawyers to move to expeditiously take the necessary legal steps, including seeking appropriate compensation to pupils and parents, if the schools are not reopened within 7 days from today (Wednesday)."

Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi said teachers who do not resume work by 8am Tuesday “would have sacked themselves".

But union officials dismissed the directive, saying Prof Kaimenyi had no power to issue it.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) chairman Wilson Sossion said the strike will continue until the government offers teachers a better deal.

“His (Prof Kaimenyi’s) arbitrary directive could only serve to prolong the strike and harden teachers’ feelings.

“Teachers feel they have been trampled upon by some individuals in government who are hell-bent on denying them their rights. The strike will only end when Knut formally calls it off,” Mr Sossion said.

But Prof Kaimenyi said those who do not return to work will face the music.

“We shall also take appropriate disciplinary action,” he told journalists at his Jogoo House office in Nairobi.

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