Finally after 3 weeks of being on strike, public school teachers in Kenya have resumed classes after the government agreed to find an additional sh 13.5 billion to supplement their pay. The teachers had made good their threat to go on a national strike in demand for up to a 300% salary increment as schools reopened for the final term of the school year earlier this month.
“The teacher’s strike has officially been called off. “Announced David Okuta Osiany, KNUT Secretary General.
THE HARMONIZED PAY
The government had initially remained adamant about not increasing the teacher’s salary especially at this time of the year, and had even threatened to sack all the striking teachers, but after consultations, the government has agreed to award teachers a harmonized pay deal costing Sh 13.5 billion. The deal puts teachers at par with other civil servants who had had already been awarded a salary increment in July this year. The teachers however were left out of the earlier deal. The increment will be paid in the October pay-slips however the Kenyan government is yet to figure out where the money will come from.
As a result of the sum to be found, Finance Minister Njeru Githae has appointed four committees within the ministry of finance who will be
tasked with the responsibility of figuring out where the 13.5 billion will come from. The committees are expected to table their reports on Friday this week.
Among the areas being looked into is VAT, which may be increased from the current rate of 16%. This would mean that the price of most goods would increase and once again, the ordinary mwananchi will be forced to dig deeper into already thin pockets.
The harmonized package will see the lowest paid teacher earn sh 19,000 up from sh 13,750 while the highest paid will earn sh 142,000 up from sh 120,000. A 30% hardship allowance that will be paid to teachers in designated areas also said to have been looked into, among a 20% house allowance and an additional 10% to teachers in special schools.
Varsity lecturers who had also joined teachers in the strike will also take home fatter payslips with the highest paid lecturer, a professor, earning sh 220,414 up from sh 165,600 with the least paid lecturer, taking home sh 72,649 up from 54,582 per month.
NEW SCHOOL CALENDAR
As a result of the three week teachers strike which has seen students in public schools loose out a lot in classwork compared to their counterparts in private schools were learning was going on uninterrupted, the education minister announced the changes made in the school calendar .
The Kenya Certificate Of Secondary Education,KCSE, which had been scheduled earlier to begin today, have been pushed to October 15th while the Kenya Certificate Of Primary Education,KCPE , which were to commence on November 13th to 15th,will begin on December 13th to 15th.
The schools will close on November 23rd instead of November 2nd and the fist term of 2013 is expected to start a month later on February 4th. The changes are meant to give students enough time to prepare for the national exams but parents and teachers have rejected the new dates especially the extension of the opening date for the first term next year, sighting interference with the March 4th General Elections.
Mutula has however maintained that the new dates will remain. “The school calendar is for the Kenyan child, I have decided to announce the dates to allow them complete the syllabus and prepare for examinations” .He said.
Well! these are inconveniences that the school going Kenyan child would have been spared if the government had its priorities right in the first place. The forum is happy that teachers are back in class and learning is going on, but dismayed by the fact that the government is considering raising taxes to pay for the deal. Raising taxes will hurt everyone, and effectively reduce the value of the teachers pay rise. Under the ‘harmonized pay deal’ shouldn’t the government be looking at its own MP’s pay structure and rounding their salaries down? 220 MPs on teachers pay would free up sh 2+bn for a start. And what about the unwieldy, expensive administrative system running the education services? Surely a case for cost savings?
Upping taxes is a simplistic answer, and one suspects a punishment for the strike. Increasing efficiency, cutting corruption, and stemming waste would be far better long term goals to free up public money.
We very much doubt however that the designated committees will be able to come up with any sensible solution ‘by Friday’