Kenya: University lecturers go on strike again

Kenya's University of Nairobi (Wikimedia / Wing / Creative Commons License)

Lecturers in public universities in Kenya have gone on strike again, months after calling off another strike early this year. Members of the University Academic Staff Union (UASU) say they are not happy with the way the government is implementing a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) reached in March.

In the deal that ended a 54-day strike that month, the government agreed to award the lecturers a 17.5 per cent pay increase and a 3.9 % increase in housing allowances. But the lecturers’ union says the government has violated its agreement to release 10 billion shillings (USD 96.3 million) before the end of June and had only released 4.7 billion shillings (USD 38.5 million).

Earlier, the Education Minister Fred Matiangi had asked the lecturers to put off the strike, saying the government would fulfill the agreement in phases and would release 4.7 billion shillings to them immediately and the remaining amount later in the year.

By yesterday, the union officials say they had yet to receive the money that the minister promised. They have vowed to stay put until the CBA is fully implemented.

“The communication that Matiangi (the minister) is releasing to us, he is treating us with disdain, he is treating us with disrespect, we will not allow it,” vowed one of the union officials in Nairobi on Monday, as lecturers took to the streets to demand for what they say is their right.

For its part, the government says it is unable to pay the full amount since the CBA was signed after the budget for the financial year 2016-2017 was prepared. It has promised to pay the remaining amount in the 2017-2018 financial year.

This strike comes at a very critical time for the government, which is also yet to resolve another ongoing strike by nurses in public hospitals. It is also a time when the country is heading into an election on August 8th. At the same time, some universities were preparing for their exams which were supposed to start this month.

This is not the first time lecturers have gone on strike in Kenya. The lecturers have staged strikes in 2003, 2004, 2012 and 2014. Their grievance has always been poor pay, which they say is not commensurate with their education and the role they play in society of shaping young minds.

The strike will affect learning in more than 30 public universities and across the country, with a student population of more than 500,000.