Education International
Education International

Kenya: Pay and teacher shortages at top of union agenda

published 24 May 2012 updated 31 May 2012

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), one of EI’s national affiliates, has been strongly advocating for a 300 per cent pay rise, and is carrying out a survey on the shortage of educators in the country and its impact on the delivery of quality education. In January, KNUT also signed an improved medical scheme, offering health cover for employees, their spouse and children, as well as retired educators.

KNUT presented its proposals to the Treasury, justifying the demand for a pay rise by the soaring inflation and the need for an efficient education system, said Secretary General David Okuta.

Increased educators’ allowances

“We have not come here to declare a strike, but to make it public that we have presented the government with proposals,” he said. “We hope that negotiations will start soon, so that teachers can work without tension.” Okuta refused to pre-empt the likely course of action should the government not respond within 14 days.

The trade union also urges authorities to implement the revision of educators’ allowances as outlined in the agreement that ended a teachers’ strike in 1997. According to the agreement, allowances should have been completely revised by July 2011.

Educators should by now have received various allowances including house, medical and commuting allowances.

Responsibility allowance

According to the new KNUT proposal, head teachers (both for primary and secondary schools) will be major beneficiaries, with a proposed responsibility allowance equal to half their basic salary. A 50 per cent special allowance has also been proposed for all teachers who attend to students with special needs.

Okuta has reiterated that the education sector needs 400 billion Kenyan shillings (KES) for reforms, as well as the remuneration of teachers to ensure quality education for all Kenyan students.

KNUT is also carrying out a survey on the shortage of teachers in the country and its impact on the delivery of quality education.

KNUT believes the shortage has worsened and demanded the government employs more than 40,000 teachers in 2012 to avoid the deterioration of education standards.

“We are visiting schools in all parts of the country to see how the situation is and talk to teachers and parents about their feelings about national education policies,” explained KNUT Deputy General Secretary Xavier Nyamu. He stressed that schools in rural and marginalised areas are the most affected by the shortage, with the few existing teachers being overworked.

Overcrowded classrooms and overworked educators

Many highly populated schools in marginalised areas have two teachers dealing with more than 300 children. “It is impossible for such schools to obtain excellent performances without enough teachers and become examples to others,” said Nyamu. “As a union, along with others stakeholders, we will work to ensure that the government employs as many teachers as possible so that all schools are well staffed to offer quality education.”

The government has budgeted in the next financial year to hire teachers to be deployed to affected schools. Currently the shortage of teachers stands at 80,000, but KNUT says the problem has worsened.

So far, the country has about 250,000 teachers, and Nyamu highlighted the number should be increased to more than 350,000 to balance shortages in most schools, for a cost of over KES10 billion in the next two years.

Improved educators’ medical scheme

Kenyan teachers are further set to enjoy an improved medical scheme that will include outpatient services for second wives.

A multi-billion scheme, signed between KNUT and the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), offers health coverage for the educators, their spouse and children, as well as teachers in retirement.

The new medical scheme, worth KES4.2 billion, upgrades the existing one, according to which NHIF only provides inpatient care services.

Services outlined in the new scheme include outpatient consultation, laboratory services, dental care, radiology, optical care and physiotherapy. Female teachers will have access to pre- and post-natal care, delivery (both normal and caesarean) and family planning methods such as tubal ligation. Pre-natal care will cover them for six months. Male teachers will be able to get circumcised and have a vasectomy as part of family planning.

EI call

“EI calls on Kenyan authorities to guarantee decent working conditions and salaries for national educators, in order to achieve quality public education for all,” said EI Chief Regional Coordinator Assibi Napoe.She also praised the KNUT for fighting for teachers’ improved welfare, and stressed the need for the public Kenyan education system to have sufficient numbers of qualified teachers.