Politicking, Insults Not The Answer To Tutors' Pay Dispute

Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion and union members celebrate at the Supreme Court in Nairobi in August, after teachers were awarded a 50 to 60 per cent basic salary increment. Photo/FILE
Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion and union members celebrate at the Supreme Court in Nairobi in August, after teachers were awarded a 50 to 60 per cent basic salary increment. Photo/FILE

When the Cord brigade took to the podium at Uhuru Park on Wednesday afternoon, Kenyans expected the opposition leaders to come up with an alternative solution to the stalemate that has crippled education for four weeks.

However, the meeting ended up being more rhetorical than problem-solving and full of political overtones aimed at gaining the opposition mileage towards the 2017 general election. In fact, speakers appeared to pressure the government not to pay teachers, so that they (opposition) could have a reason to bring it down. Clearly, the strike and teachers tribulations were being used to advance the political fortunes of an opposition still smarting from the indifference it suffered at the hands of US President Barack Obama when he visited recently.

And Kalonzo Musyoka, the former Vice President and the man who once accused a journalist of asking the wrong questions simply because of the community he (journalist) came from, at one stage almost caused a stir when he accused (some) media houses of only showing the dais and (deliberately) ignoring the “masses” in attendance. He then went ahead to call for a weekly ‘occupation’ of Harambee Avenue and in the process issued a veiled threat to the state security organs. All this coming from a man who was part of the problem as a former Education minister in the late 1990s.

Before Kalonzo, there was his prominent sidekick who outdid the other brash politicians in name-calling and in peddling outright insults – Senator Johnstone Muthama. The pushy politician from Ukambani decided to excite the masses by training his guns at President Uhuru Kenyatta and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru in very personal ways.

To stir the crowd, Muthama, without batting an eyelid, publicly cast aspersions on the characters of the President and the person of Waiguru. Apparently, the meeting had been called in solidarity with the teachers and schoolchildren who are at home following the early closure of schools. Many of the children would consequently be expected to have been following the proceedings, in the hope that they would bring solutions to their plight.

However, the language used by the likes of Muthama would only have embarrassed whoever was watching and left the children amazed that these are the people who lead us. Personally, I could not believe the level of character assassination some of these leaders engaged in, with absolute impunity.

Muthama had the previous day appeared to support the 50 per cent salary slash for state officers when he uttered words to the effect that Budalang'i MP Ababu Namwamba had the backing of other (top) politicians in the opposition. He, however, did not express his support for the pay cut as he basked in the glory of addressing hundreds of Kenyans who, looking for hope, were urging him on. Well, he sure did succeed in showing Kenyan, the stuff he is made of.

Then as Kalonzo left the stage, he invited his more equal partner in Cord, Raila Odinga, to address those present and give them Cord’s solution to the stalemate. When he finally came round to it, Raila unveiled an M-Pesa paybill number, “which my brother Kalonzo and I have opened” to take care of the teachers’ pay problem. Raila told the crowd that he and Kalonzo had already deposited into the account the paltry (by the top politicians’ standards) Sh100,000 each and so could Kenyans contribute generously to the “teacher-saving” account? And with that, the curtain came down.

Kenyan politicians are not famous for running such funds and in any case what planning has gone into it? Who will manage it? How will the money be distributed? In case the teachers and their employer come to an amicable agreement soon, how will the money collected be refunded to the poor donors?

The fund is obviously not sustainable and clearly not the answer to the teachers’ pay standoff, neither is the occupation of Harambee or any other road in the city or elsewhere. Leading the masses to State House as some ‘leaders’ suggested is not the answer either. As the Catholic bishops proposed, the time has come for the antagonists in this dispute to sit down and reason together for the sake of the children.

It would be nice for economic or financial writers to analyse the figures given by Uhuru when he was explaining why the government is unable to pay teachers and those given by Raila on Wednesday to counter the President’s, for Kenyans to get the true picture.