Good:Former President Mwai Kibaki’s office cash diverted to teachers

NAIROBI, KENYA: Public school teachers agitating for pay won a first round victory on Tuesday when Parliament secured more than Sh4 billion for their cause.

More billions could soon follow after the House committee ordered an opening of discussions on the Sh17 billion allocated for the purchase of laptops for next year’s Class One pupils — a flagship project of the Jubilee government.

The money includes part of Sh700 million set aside in the recent Budget to provide an office for former President Kibaki. Parliament’s Budget and Appropriations Committee also slashed the allocation to the Tourism and Industrialisation ministries by Sh4 billion to go towards the pay needs of teachers and university lecturers. Committee chairman Mutava Musyimi said the amount needed to acquire an office for Kibaki is huge and comes at a time when teachers are demanding more pay.

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The committee further directed the House Education committee to open up discussions on funds set aside to purchase laptops for primary school pupils. The government has allocated Sh17 billion for the purchase of laptops for pupils joining Class One. Teachers in public schools and lecturers have threatened to down their tools unless their pay demands are met.

Musyimi asked the National Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich to next week table before the committee the options government has in dealing with teachers’ demands.

“Agitation for better pay and threats of strikes should be the last thing the Jubilee government wants. We must make decisions that are painful but necessary,” he added.

Luxurious acquisitions

Suleiman Murunga (Kimilili) said the committee will not allow public money to be spent without due diligence on the proposed projects.

“This committee is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the country’s finances are safeguarded. These luxurious acquisitions must stop. We will continue doing what is proper until we get enough money to ensure that the teachers do not go on strike,” Murunga said.

It was revealed yesterday before the Budget committee that a parcel of land with an old house standing on it had been identified for the needs of the retired President’s office.

Steven Kirogo, the principal administration secretary in the Cabinet Office told the committee that the half-acre piece of land worth Sh485 million in Gigiri was agreeable to the retired President.

He said the decision to acquire the parcel had been made in consultation with President Kenyatta and the Director General of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Michael Gichangi.  “On the security and suitability, the retired President may have made decisions that may not have pleased many. He is happy with the location,” he said.

According to Kirogo the matter was advertised and various applications were received.

Sabatia MP Alfred Agoi warned that luxurious allocations to such projects may trigger strikes in the country.

“It is only prudent and meaningful that a cheaper option is found to address the matter. As a committee we will only approve what is within the law, the tradition where public money was allocated with no regard to important issues are long gone because we are now fully involved in the budget making process,” said Agoi.

Across the country yesterday, the battle for supremacy between rival teachers’ unions played out in classrooms across the country yesterday, paralysing learning in some schools while the rest carried on as usual.

Strike notice

Secondary school teachers affiliated to the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) boycotted classes in parts of the country but others defied the call to strike and continued teaching.

On Monday, the Kuppet national office asked its members to keep off classes beginning yesterday following the lapse of a strike notice issued to government two weeks ago.

But Kuppet officials failed to marshal the support of all teachers in secondary schools after Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) national officers ordered its 200,000-strong membership not to participate in the strike until further notice.

Knut national chairman Wilson Sossion said there was no strike unless his union sanctioned because they had allowed the government time to consult while they prepared for the strike.

“There cannot be a successful strike if it is not called by Knut,” he said. But as he spoke, Kuppet national vice chairperson Julius Korir countered that the strike had kicked off well and that teachers had absconded duty.

Korir said the union had submitted their proposals to the budget committee and also lobbied through the ministry of education but no money was allocated.

And in what looked like a referendum on the strike, all the principals shouted and raised their hands in agreement with the strike when Sossion asked them if they will support the strike when it is called.

Attend duties

He told the teachers that the union was awaiting the decision by the Knut national executive committee (NEC) to authorise the strike as soon as possible if the government will not have given the teachers what they were asking for.

Learning proceeded smoothly in schools in Kisumu County as teachers administered mid-term exams to their students.

Kisumu Day secondary school acting principal Manguro Osongo said all Knut and Kuppet members were present and attending their duties as usual. He said Kuppet had not put in place necessary structures to make the strike effective.

“ Teachers are still waiting for instructions from the union because we have not even received any circular to that effect but have just read it in the newspaper,” he said.

In Kisii County, learning in some schools was paralysed after teachers affiliated to the Kuppet heeded to their union’s call to boycott work.

Some schools were forced to break early for the mid-term break in  the absence of the teachers.

Eberege secondary school in Kenyenya remained closed as the strike began on Tuesday.

Kisumu’s Lions High School deputy principal Emmanuel Okwama said no union official had visited the school to confirm whether a strike was under way.-standardmedia.co.ke

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