REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA, CGH, REGARDING THE TEACHERSâ€™ UNIONSâ€™ STRIKE AT STATE HOUSE, NAIROBI, 20 SEPTEMBER 2015
Let me begin by paying tribute to the hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who are engaged in public service right across the country. These patriots commit time, expertise and intellect and other resources to the service of our country in the health, education, and security sectors, among others. My government is committed to ensuring that Kenyaâ€™s public servants are well remunerated, well managed and well taken care of in order so that they can continue to deliver essential services. To do that, however, we must manage the public service in an affordable manner.
Two days ago, my government took the unprecedented step of revising term dates for our schools. That was necessitated by the unprotected teachersâ€™ strike, which has disrupted the education of our children. For the last three weeks, millions of our children have stayed home. When they have gone to school, they have learned little. Teachers have had a protracted dispute with the Teachersâ€™ Service Commission.
The disruption is familiar, because it is only the latest in a long series of similar troubles. In the last seven years, there have been eight strikes or strike threats, timed to be as disruptive as possible in the school calendar. This latest strike comes under similar circumstances.
In the past, we lacked a framework to settle these disputes in a structured manner. Public servants who did the same work and had the same qualifications found themselves paid differently. In turn, some public servants developed a culture of indiscipline and confrontation. Kenyans want an end to disorder, and unequal pay.
In 2010, Kenyans chose a new constitution for themselves. We chose a new mode of governance in pursuit of fair and conclusive resolution of such disputes, as opposed to the strife and inequity of the past. The new constitution established the Salaries and Remuneration Commission for the first time in our history, and conferred on it the mandate of managing the remuneration of public officers, including teachers.
The mandate of the SRC is to set, review and advise on the remuneration of all state and public servants, including teachers and myself, with a view to ensuring that the public wage bill is fiscally sustainable. At the moment, our public wage bill accounts for 52% of revenue. The global average for middle-income countries like us is about 35%. Further, the public wage bill accounts for more than 10% of our GDP, well above the middle-income country average of about 5%.
All public and state officers, myself included, number 680,000, just about 1.5% of the entire Kenyan population. It is important to point out that of the KSh 1.1 trillion collected in revenue last year, KSh 568 billion went to pay our wages, meaning that 1.5% of us consumed 52% of our revenues. Our debt, our maintenance, and our essential public services must be paid for out of the remaining 48%. If the award were paid to teachers, the SRC would be forced to harmonise wages across the entire public sector. Based on last yearâ€™s tax revenue, our wage bill would rise from 52% of to 61% revenue collected.
Fellow Kenyans, the new constitution also set up the TSC as an independent constitutional body to recruit and manage Kenyaâ€™s teachers. In the management of teachers, and working with the SRC, the TSC has progressively enhanced the terms and conditions of teachers, and they have now been brought up to par with other civil servants. That is the equity that Kenyans expect under the new constitutional dispensation. Right now, a teacher in Kenya is paid the same as other civil servants with similar qualifications and responsibilities. Indeed, a P1 certificate-holder enters the service at job group G, with other public servants of similar qualifications. Moreover, a graduate teacher enters public service at job group K, the same as engineers and other specialised professionals. No one can reasonably complain that teachers have been left behind.
The claim that the TSC still owes our teachers money under the 1997 agreement is not true. Then, teachers were awarded a pay rise of between 150 and 200%, to be paid in five phases. The award has been settled in full. A P1 teacher who earned a gross salary of 7,762 then now earns a minimum of KSh 23,692, while the highest paid teacher who took home KSh 35,886 then now earns a minimum of KSh 140,089. In any case, 55% (approx. 168,000) of all teachers employed by the TSC are in job groups J to N, earning between 35,000 and 75,000 a month. This is significantly higher than their counterparts in the private sector. Ironically, private schools often perform better than their public counterparts.
The claim that Kenyan teachers are paid less than their colleagues in the region is also not true. The lowest-paid teacher in Kenya earns seven times as much as his counterpart in Burundi. Th