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Consider the moral question in nurses’ strike

Sunday February 17 2019

nurses' strike

Elgeyo-Marakwet nurses proceed to the second week of their strike, on February 12, 2019. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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I wonder whether there is any such thing as moral thinking in matters that touch on the dignity and humanity of people who are considered to just be part of the public.

Without a moral dimension that guides the operations which direct the existence of citizens, there is no chance that we shall ever arrive at what can be called real authentic civilisation.

People in the medical profession such as doctors and nurses are an important category in the provision of essential services.

So are teachers and other professional groups of people who are paid from the public kitty to give services to their fellow citizens.


The primary responsibility of providing these services is, a large extent, the business of governments, be they national or county.

Those who govern at these two levels cannot pretend that this is not their concern, therefore when things go wrong the buck has to stop with them.

I am here thinking of the embarrassing reality of patients being abandoned in public hospitals just because the authorities and the relevant trade unions cannot agree.

It is true that workers at whatever level must be paid what is due to them, and when governments sign agreements with the union leaders of these workers they must honour those agreements.

Many times we have seen doctors, teachers, nurses and others going on strike because agreements have not been honoured or signed.


Of course there may be times when other interests such as politics become the motivating factor, and this is the point at which I ask myself whether there is any such thing as moral thinking as we deal with matters that affect the general public.

Whatever the reason, it is not morally right that a sick person should go untreated or a child go untaught just because government officers do not agree with unionists or because the egos of certain individuals are at odds with each other.

Indeed, this is a mark of an uncivilised society. When we all know that services must be given, those responsible must do everything that must be done so that nothing comes between recipients of such services and the providers.


Can they not at least anticipate so that events like the nurses’ strike do not happen to the detriment of citizens?

Any public administrative operations that are not ethically driven will be our undoing.

After 55 years of independence, it is a shame that sick Kenyans who go to public hospitals or pupils who go to public schools cannot be given the relevant services that are, after all, their right.

How can we talk about being civilised if we cannot manage the provision of basic services for human dignity?

Wamugunda is dean and sociology lecturer at University of Nairobi; [email protected]