Lecturers, staff stay put as Jacob Kaimenyi calls for end to industrial action
What you need to know:
- The lecturers and non-academic staff are on strike demanding pay amounting to Sh3.9 billion, which is part of Sh7.8 billion negotiated in 2010
- A spot check on universities across the country revealed that learning was still paralysed
Lecturers and non-academic staff in public universities boycotted work for the second day on Thursday, defying a court order to resume duties.
Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi appealed to the workers to return to work and asked those who had used the money meant to pay the striking staff for other purposes to return the cash.
“I appeal to the dons to obey the court order and call off the strike and give dialogue a chance; the strike is illegal,” Prof Kaimenyi said.
“It is not in our interest to be called a country of strikes because it affects our education system and image; foreigners will fear to enrol in our universities as they are not sure when they will complete their courses,” he added.
Speaking in his Nairobi office on Thursday, the minister said some staff members who did not deserve to be paid the Sh3.9 billion negotiated under a Collective Bargaining Agreement by the lecturers and worker’s unions, will have to return the money.
Some universities which also spent the amount for other activities would also be compelled to ensure the amount was returned and given to the deserving lecturers and university workers who are on strike despite a court order stopping the industrial action.
Other institutions that were not yet constituent colleges at the time of signing the deal also diverted the cash to development, which the Cabinet Secretary said was not supposed to be the case.
“We shall take appropriate action (against those who diverted the cash) subject to the findings of the investigations,” he added.
The lecturers and non-academic staff are on strike demanding pay amounting to Sh3.9 billion, which is part of Sh7.8 billion negotiated in 2010. (READ: Varsity workers’ defy order barring strike)
FAILED TO AGREE ON PERCENTAGES
Prof Kaimenyi said the first amount was paid out without a hitch, but the second one had become contentious after the parties (lecturers and vice-chancellors) failed to agree on the percentages and schedule for payment.
He, however, said that he had met with his Labour counterpart, Mr Kazungu Kambi, with an aim of reviving dialogue between the parties.
“We have agreed that the parties must be brought together and agree on the schedule and percentages,” he said.
A spot check on universities across the country revealed that learning was still paralysed. At the University of Nairobi, some lecture halls at the administration block were open, but only a few students were studying individually and in groups. There were no lecturers.
Student Organization of Nairobi University chairman Zachary Kinuthia called for a speedy resolution of the matter. He said that students would not tolerate anything that came between them and the purpose of being at university.
“We know the lecturers and workers are exercising their rights, but it is infringing on ours. We are here to study and we will not welcome anything that stands in our way,” he said.
In Rift Valley, students had to find alternative rooms for study as padlocks dangled on the doors to libraries and other learning facilities.
At the University of Eldoret, students pleaded for government intervention to have the parties to the pay dispute reach a consensus.
They want classes to resume, with some saying crucial exams are just round the corner.
The Union of Academic Staff Unions (Uasu) and Kenya Universities Staff Union (Kusu) University of Eldoret Chapter stressed that they were not happy leaving students unattended, but the intimidation they are subjected to was too much for them to lecture.
Chapter secretary Jim Kairu alleged that universities’ vice-chancellors, administrators and some officers in the government were colluding to water down the issue of lecturers demanding some mysteriously disappeared money.
In western Kenya and Nyanza regions, the situation was no different with lecture halls and offices at Maseno University remaining closed and students staying away.
The same scenario applied to Masinde Muliro, and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Rongo universities in Bondo.
Kisii University also remained closed following the Tuesday protests by students over what they claimed to be exorbitant attachment fees.
On Thursday, lecturers at Jaramogi denounced reports that they were on duty, with Kusu chapter secretary-general Bernard Ogola refuting earlier reports that learning was going on normally at the institution.
“All lecturers here are on strike in solidarity with our colleagues. We will continue boycotting classes until our leaders call it off,” Mr Ogola told the Nation. (READ: Varsity staff begin strike)
On social media, students expressed their frustrations and anger with a Kenyatta University student, Mr Kennedy Otieno, posting on his Facebook page that the government made an agreement with lecturers and now they are changing goalposts. “That’s not justice, that’s not democracy,” he said.
“We elected them (leaders) to be a voice to us but they are just a corrupt quagmire of individuals in office only seen during money-related events,” claimed Maseno University student Bright Otieno.
Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotel, Educational Institutions, Hospitals (Kudheiha), was not left out with Maseno chapter chairman Richard Abala asking members not to relent until their dues are settled.
In Mombasa County, lecturers and non-academic workers asked the Inter-public University Council to withdraw the court case banning the strike.
Empty lecture halls and bored students loitering in and outside the campus was the order of the day at Technical University of Mombasa and neighbouring institutions.
Earlier in the day, lecturers gathered at the university square where they held demonstrations yet again before unanimously resolving to forge ahead with the strike.
Meanwhile, the university management spent the better part of the day frantically planning meetings on how to end the strike and keep students busy during the strike period.
Uasu chapter chairman Joseph Ngare said the court did not need to intervene in their Sh3.9 billion pay dispute.
Reported by Samuel Karanja, Copperfield Lagat, Everline Okewo and Okewo