Union mulls government offer to end lecturer strike

Public university lecturers said they would continue striking in spite of government’s mid-week offer of KES10 billion (US$97 million) to cater for basic salaries and housing allowance adjustments.

In a press statement, Universities Academic Staff Union, or UASU, Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga, said the offer was tabled during negotiations between the Inter Public Universities Consultative Council Forum, or IPUCCF, and unions on Wednesday last week.

“We have made good progress so far and will continue with negotiations… to iron out outstanding issues such as inclusion of pension contributions in the pact,” said Wasonga.

However, Wasonga said the nationwide strike continues pending the negotiation, signing, registration and implementation of the 2013-17 consultative bargaining agreement, which UASU is keen to secure before the current fiscal year.

The staff union has accused the government of a lack of goodwill and failing to offer a counter proposal to the 2013-17 agreement. The government’s counter proposal came after Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Education Fred Matiang'i early last week enlisted the help of the national treasury and the salaries and remunerations commission after efforts to engage the unions by the IPUCCF ended in a stalemate.

Students join strike

The strike, now entering its fourth week, has paralysed public universities, putting learning on hold for over 200,000 students from 33 universities, some of whom started their own nationwide demonstrations on 2 February to persuade the government to ensure lecturers are paid to resume work.

“Access to education is our right as students as enshrined in our constitution,” said Washington Ouru, University of Nairobi’s Lower Kabete campus representative.

Ouru said the students stand in solidarity with their lecturers and urged the government to fully meet the demands of the striking lecturers. They vowed to continue with the demonstrations and urged their counterparts from other universities to take to the streets.

Maseno University students also held demonstrations urging the government to review lecturers’ payments. The students also called on the Higher Education Loans Board to disburse their loans efficiently so they have money for the new academic year.

“The government should always prioritise education as it is very fundamental for the transformation of this country,” said Winfred Anyango, a student from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology’s school of education.

Disruptions and closures

Anyango said the strike had affected her plans to finish her studies by mid-year. “I wanted to finish this and help teach in a secondary school in my village which has inadequate staff,” Anyango told University World News.

Despite attempts to keep some institutions operational, most have closed down and sent students home.

Karatina University sent students home pending the return of the institution’s teaching and non-teaching staff to work. Similarly, Laikipia University Vice-chancellor Professor Francis Lelo announced the closure of the university and its campuses in the interests of safety.

Attempts by the University of Nairobi to continue teaching were dealt a blow when striking lecturers stormed the university’s Kisumu campus to eject those lecturers who were prepared to continue teaching students.