Teachers have defied the governmentâ€™s directive to reopen schools today, throwing learning into further uncertainty as Form Four exams begin.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers yesterday said the strike was still on and urged teachers to stay away from schools until it gives them new directions Monday.
The statement by Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion flies in the face of a court order issued on Friday requiring teachers to return to work as they negotiate with their employer and reach a deal within 90 days.
â€œFor now, they should actively remain on strike as we analyse the court ruling with our lawyers,â€ Mr Sossion said in Bomet Town. â€œThis strike is not about to end as long as there is an active appeal case in the Court of Appeal.â€
He said the union would present itself in court and later in the afternoon give direction on the strike.
In his ruling on Friday, Justice Nelson Abuodha of the Employment and Labour Relations Court, declined to declare the teachersâ€™ strike as unprotected and directed the Teachers Service Commission, Knut and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers to assist the Labour Cabinet secretary in appointing a neutral and mutually-agreeable conciliator or conciliation committee within 30 days.
The strike was called on September 1 to push the government to implement a 50-60 per cent basic salary increase awarded to teachers by Justice Nduma Nderi of the Labour Court on June 30. The increment was to be spread over four years, but the government has said it has no money to effect the court order. President Uhuru Kenyatta has also said that giving the pay rise would trigger copycat pay rise demands in the rest of the civil service.
On Friday, Justice Abuodha urged the government and the teachers to negotiate in good faith â€œbearing in mind the governmentâ€™s fiscal policies and budgetary cycleâ€. He also allowed the teachersâ€™ unions to study the judgment and return to court today to give their feedback.
The orders are also expected to be raised before the Court of Appeal tomorrow during the hearing of an application filed by TSC challenging the June 30 salary award.
Yesterday, Mr Sossion urged TSC to withdraw the case. Mr Sossion said that unless the case is withdrawn, the expected conciliation was headed nowhere.
Withdrawal of the case was part of the conditions that the union had set out for talks with TSC.
â€œWe have already written to the commission setting out clearly the conditions for talks with them,â€ he said yesterday. â€œUnless the same are adhered to, the efforts for conciliation are, indeed, in jeopardy.â€
Last night TSC spokesman Kihumba Kamotho denied receiving any communication from Knut on the conditions.
â€œWhen we receive it, we will act appropriately,â€ he said.
NEW TERM DATES
Soon after Fridayâ€™s ruling, Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said that new term dates would begin Monday. However, both Knut and Kuppet faulted his orders, saying the Education Ministry had no business directing teachers.
Mr Sossion said the unions were the ones mandated to call off the strike, since they were the ones that had directed the teachers to down their tools in the first place.
â€œThe strike is still active and no teacher should resume teaching until I make a formal announcement for them to resume teaching after a decision is made by the National Executive Council,â€ Mr Sossion said. â€œThere has to be a social process before teachers can return to work and they will not be forced to do so.â€
An interpretation of Fridayâ€™s ruling is expected today at 2.30pm.
Mr Sossion said Knut did not want a situation where it called off the strike only to be forced to direct members to abandon work again.
â€œWe want clear interpretation from the court so that this matter can come to a conclusive end… We want these games to come to an end,â€ he said.
The Knut boss said a decision on whether the over 288,000 teachers would resume work will be made after the unionâ€™s NEC meeting and court interpretation of its own decision this afternoon. The court is expected to give clearer directions in light of the teachersâ€™ fresh demands regarding withdrawal of pending cases.
GO BACK TO SCHOOL
Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori said: â€œWe expect the judge to tidy up aspects of the judgment… and state clear positions the court has taken.â€
The union will also present a petition to TSC on Monday, stating its demands before it can call off its strike.
However, Mr Misori said he was not expecting any resistance from TSC, as initial signals indicated that all the parties were willing to have the court decision implemented.