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Africa

Kenyan court overrules Kenyatta school closure

media Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto, on April 4th 2015 in Nairobi. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Kenya’s high court has ruled that a government order to close private schools is not valid, after the President ordered all schools to shut in the midst of a teachers’ strike gripping the country.

Teachers across Kenya have been on strike for more than three weeks and say they will not return to the classroom until they receive a 60 per cent pay rise.

There is somewhat of a precedent for such a substantial rise. In the nineties a similar dispute and strike ended with teachers getting a 50 percent rise in their pay packet, but there is a different tone emanating from the government this time around.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has expressly ruled out giving this rise, calling it unaffordable and unnecessary. On Sunday he gave a televised address on the subject telling Kenyans ‘no-one can reasonably claim that teachers have been left behind’.

Kenyatta talked for nearly 25 minutes addressing each of the teachers’ union’s claims and dismissing them one by one. The unions say that neighbouring countries value their teachers more highly, so the President listed the pay structures for teachers in countries like Tanzania and compared them to Kenya’s salaries. Of course, in all the examples he used, the Kenyans were paid much more. He will be hoping he has made a convincing case, as parents across Kenya are getting increasingly exasperated with the stalemate.

The Kenyan National Parent’s Association (KNAP) is filing a law suit on behalf of parents to reclaim their school fees. They are furious that this term their children have barely spent any time in the classroom. KNAP’s Secretary General, Musau Ndunda, told RFI they will be hoping to reclaim up to 40, 000 Kenyan Shillings (€340) per child.

On Monday, the Kenyan high court ordered that the government cannot shut down the private schools, but all state schools will remain closed indefinitely.

This Friday another court case will be heard, determining the legality of the decision of teachers to continue striking. If the courts rule in the government’s favour, teachers could be forced to return to work on Monday with or without their pay rise.

 
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