NAIROBI, 16TH SEPTEMBER 2015 | The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) is a premier and flagship non-governmental organization with a mandate to entrench human rights-centered governance at all levels. It is on this basis that the KHRC is deeply concerned by the current standoff between the government and the two teachers unions: KNUT and KUPPET over salary increment for teachers.
The two giant unions called the ongoing national teachers’ strike based on the Government’s refusal to effect the Industrial Relations Court order that the Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC) awards a 50-60 percent salary increment to teachers, a decision which the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court upheld. Unless the order is reversed by a higher court, the rule of law demands that the government complies with the current decision. For the refusal by the Government and any actor to implement court decisions sets a bad precedent of abetting anarchy and impunity.
KHRC is concerned that the disruption of learning due to the ongoing teachers’ strike comes at a time when learners should be preparing for the national exams. The strike, now in its third week, has paralyzed learning in public primary and secondary schools; putting the fate of about 12 million learners in limbo, with children in public schools hurting the most. This perpetuates inequality because learning in private schools continues uninterrupted.
The right to basic education for children in Article 53 of the Constitution is an unqualified right, realizable immediately and is not pegged on availability of resources. Further, Kenya being a signatory of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), has undertaken under Article 2 (1) of the covenant to deploy maximum available resources for the achievement of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, education being one of them.
However, a look at the gross misappropriation of tax payers’ money, unnecessary government expenditure, misplaced priorities such as the laptop project, over funding of some ministries such as the security ministry currently supported to the tune of Kshs. 200 billion, grand corruption both at the national and county governments and hefty salaries for and extravagance by State officials is evidence of the government’s unwillingness to deploy maximum available resources for the realization of access to education. Granted, the billions of money lost in tax evasion estimated at KSh.639 billion annually is more than enough to pay the KSh.17 billion that teachers are asking for.
Davis Malombe, Ag. Executive Director at KHRC says: “By delaying to obey the Court order, the Government is condoning a continuing violation of children’s rights under the Constitution.” It is also a blatant contravention of Article 21 of the Constitution that obligates the State and State organs to observe, respect, protect, promote and fulfill rights and freedoms. The excuse of lack of funds by the Government to pay teachers adequately is unjustifiable and unacceptable. Teachers have had to put up with a never ending circus on their salaries for years now. The billions lost in imprudent and irresponsible financial expeditions is more than enough to pay the 17 billion that teachers are asking for.
In view of the foregoing, KHRC demands that:
- The TSC immediately pays the increment ordered by the Courts without any further delay;
- A return-to work formula is negotiated and agreed on to allow normalcy to return to public schools. The strike MUST END NOW!
- The TSC and teachers’ unions engage in open and constructive dialogue towards finding a lasting solution to the never ending teachers’ strikes;
- The government MUST zealously guard, respect, promote and protect the right to education. This right is a fundamental right that MUST NOT be compromised for whatever reason.
- The Government must pursuant to Article 201 of the Constitution ensure equity, accountability and prudence in the allocation and utilization of public resources.
Kenya is a State governed by the Constitution. The Government, just like any other stakeholder, has an unqualified and uncompromising obligation to uphold the rule of law and respect Court Orders.