A strike by teachers appeared imminent after Monday's union-set deadline passed without the government releasing their higher pay as ordered by courts.
The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) remained silent on the ultimatum, while the National Treasury said there was no money to pay the higher salaries.
“The figure that teachers are demanding was not captured in the Budget. Where will I get Sh17 billion to give them? Besides, we have an appeal whose ruling has not come out,” said Mr Henry Rotich, the National Treasury Cabinet secretary.
Both the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) had demanded that the government pay the 288,060 public school teachers their new pay raise of between 50 per cent and 60 per cent by last night.
The TSC has sought a review of two court orders, one by the Court of Appeal, which directed it to pay the new salaries by midnight yesterday, and the other by the Supreme Court, which declined to block the payments.
The application is yet to be determined.
SUPREME COURT RULING
On Monday last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the National Treasury should top up teachers’ August salaries with the 50 to 60 per cent pay rise.
Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion said the union leaders would, on Wednesday, hold a National Executive Council meeting to decide the next course of action after the expiry of the deadline given by the courts. The council is Knut’s top decision-making organ.
“NEC has been summoned to give direction ... teachers will further be effectively directed on what to do after tomorrow’s meeting,” Mr Sossion said in an interview with the Nation.
He warned that the council would not give any strike notice because the current stand-off was a continuation of the work boycott they had started earlier this year.
“Don’t expect us to go back and issue another seven-day strike notice when there was another notice issued on December 28 last year after which the strike started on January 5,” said Mr Sossion.
“We only opted to move to court and now that there is non-compliance on the part of TSC, teachers are at liberty to resume the strike action without prompting the employer,” he said.
Although some parts of the country were affected by a go-slow when schools reopened for the third term yesterday, students in Nairobi reported to schools as usual.
A spot check by the Nation established that the first day of the term in most public schools that reopened on Monday went on uninterrupted.
Public primary school students also reported for learning.
At St Teresa’s Girls Primary School, teachers and pupils had reported and learning was going on as usual.
“The strike is supposed to start after August 31, that is why we had to report to school and my teachers are going on with the work as usual,” the headteacher, Ms Gladys Kanyi, told the Nation. “Teaching is a calling and therefore as much as I would want the money, we have to teach the children for their better future.”
At Precious Blood Riruta, Mr George Kibugi, a parent with a Form One child, said he took his daughter to school hoping they would retain the students.
“I brought my daughter to school despite the calls for (a) strike because the school can decide to retain the student for some time. I also believe the schools are not so anxious to go on strike.
“Sossion and the team are also very tough, they are not considerate especially with the candidates. If I was in the same position as Sossion, I would tell the school principal, even if it is behind the curtains, to retain the Form Fours in schools,” he said.
In other parts of the country, such as western Kenya, the Coast and parts of northern Kenya, the third term got off to a slow start. Although teachers reported for work, little teaching was going on.
In Kericho, Governor Paul Chepkwony asked the government to pay the Sh17 billion salary increase awarded to teachers by the courts.
“I am sure the money can be made available for this purpose with the help of the National Assembly,” said the governor.
In Garissa County, teachers and pupils stayed away from classes. There was no learning going on in many schools in Garissa Town as some pupils played around their classrooms.
At Kazuku Girls Primary School, the Nation found only two teachers in their staff room while nine Standard Eight girls there revising their past exam papers.
The TSCn had on Sunday instructed all teachers to report to work without fail. Earlier, Knut had instructed its members to stay away from school until the 50 and 60 per cent salary raise awarded to them by the court is implemented.