Since 1962 when the first strike was held, there have been a total of 11 strikes in which the teachers demanded better working conditions and increased pay. Teachers are a vital cog in the wheel of any society’s development and they need to be well taken care of. Perhaps this is why the grievances of Kenyan teachers have seemed reasonable on many occasions.
However, time is money and wasting it is almost like flushing a precious wad of cash down the toilet. The ongoing stalemate between the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and the Government may be justified or unjustified on many grounds, but at the end of the day, as the debates and power play rages on, a lot of time and money is going to waste.
This year’s strike has seen the indefinite closure of primary and secondary schools countrywide. A move which will go down the annals of our history as an insensitive strategy. Many stakeholders have indicated that the closure of schools has dealt an overwhelming blow to various important sectors such as education, publishing, retail and other interrelated sectors with losses amounting to billions.
Primarily, not only has the education sector experienced disruption in this year’s third term schedule which will in turn cause a wave of effects into next year’s plan, but it will also experience poor performance in the scheduled end of year examinations as the students have not been taken through the entire curriculum. Therefore, the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) may have to shift the previously selected final exam dates which may require unbudgeted emergency funding to implement.
Mr. David Waweru, the Kenya Publishers Association chairman indicates that the depreciation of the shilling has raised production costs and made their books uncompetitive. This coupled with the effects of the current education sector crisis which has seen fewer parents, schools and book distributors making purchases, has heavily affected the publishing sector which heavily relies on the stability of the education sector for its sustainability.
In addition, the retail sector has also been grossly affected. Suppliers of school equipment for instance will have to wait until schools officially reopen so as to receive payments on already delivered goods such as stationery, furniture, lab equipment, food items (which will most likely go stale if not well stored or consumed before expiry), water and energy.
Other interrelated sectors such as the transport industry will also be affected because the usual number of expected commuters during the school term has drastically reduced on an indefinite basis. Clothing and textiles industry will also experience the pinch as fewer parents purchase uniforms and shoes during this period.
The employment sector will also receive a blow as the many casual laborers and non- teaching staff employed by these schools on a daily or contractual basis will have to be relieved of their duties until further notice, this means that many more households will experience challenges in getting their daily bread and butter no matter how meager.
Lastly, Schools and parents will equally experience some loss of hard earned money as legally binding contracts still need to be honored even though the school is not in session. For example payment terms on workers contracts must be honored, bus and lunch fees already paid cannot be refunded yet this money would be useful in sustaining the idle children.
Even without taking out your calculator and adding up the losses, it is evident to see that there has been a lot of time and resources gone to waste. And unless we rise up and solve this issue as soon as possible as a country, we will pay for this strike for a long time to come.