After the dreadful massacre of 142 students at Garissa university last week, the Kenyan National Union of Teachers (KNUT) is advising teachers in the area to leave their posts if they are feeling unsafe. KNUT general secretary, Wilson Sossion, said that he believed that Garissa teacher training college only survived because it had shut the day before the killings. However many of the students killed were doing education degrees at the university. Sossion is also calling on the government to shut the university and transfer the students to another site.

Following the teachers strike earlier this year, teachers from a neighbouring area of the country refused to return to their schools, because of fears for their safety. In December 2014 many teachers were among 37 people massacred by Al Shabab when they hijacked a bus on which they were travelling. When teachers went to the Teachers Services Commission to demand that proper security measures be put in place or alternatively that they be transferred to another area, the response of the TSC was to sack 1043 of them. 

As KNUT points out, while other civil servants in the area work in towns, teachers often work in isolated rural communities, which can be considerably less secure. As one supportive MP put it: 'Much as the North Eastern learners have a right to education, the government should also note that the teachers in the region have a right to life

Teachers from the North Eastern areas have been camping out at union headquarters and Sossion himself has been subject to harrassment by the authorities for his stand on the safety of his members. One teacher working at Dadaab refugee camp in the same area was also shot dead by Al Shabab last week and the camp has now been evacuated.

Large numbers of teachers in Kenya, many of whom have degrees, are leaving the profession because of the poverty pay and bad conditions in which they often have to work, with class sizes typically over 100.  It is against this background that Gordon Brown, the UN ambassador for education, makes largely empty demands for schools to be safe places globally. Calling on businesses to donate money from their 'Corporate Social Responsibility' budget for security measures in a few schools is no substitute for funding schools properly and putting an end to the economic relations which lead to global poverty, and are so often behind the violence and suffering faced by both children and their teachers.