Teachers in Kenya are having to take strike action again as their government refuses to pay them the money which is owed to them. Kenyan teachers went on strike at the beginning of this year to demand a living wage. At that time, the government resorted to dirty tricks and police action, particularly against the leadership of KNUT, to try to break it. When this failed, the matter was put before the courts, who ruled in favour of the union and instructed the government to pay the 50 - 60% pay rise. The government went back to the courts and they again ruled in favour of the union. With the money still not forthcoming, the teachers are on strike again from today.

Last month the union produced a report, which showed that 76% of teachers wish to leave teaching because their professional and personal needs are not met. Teachers in Kenya often work in appalling conditions with poor infrastructure and classes typically over 100. 20% do a second job just in order to make ends meet, with 50% saying that their salaries do not even meet their basic needs. To make matters worse, many teachers in the North of the country are in fear of their lives, as the government fails to put in security measures.

World Bank and other education 'reformers' routinely blame teachers for perceived failures of public schooling, even as they starve it of funds. In so far as funds are provided, they are often earmarked for accountability measures like performance related pay or standardised testing: in Kenya, the government wants to tie any pay increases to teacher 'evaluation'. Meanwhile the government wastes money on an expensive and ill thought out 'laptops for schools' scheme.

The government is pleading poverty and saying that it has not got the funds to pay teachers a living wage. KNUT leader Wilson Sossion points out however that there is tax evasion on a massive scale in the country. In particular there is rampant evasion by global corporation with one report estimating this costs the country over $6 billion annually.

There is no doubt that the government will attempt to intimidate teachers and their leaders into going back to work.They are already suggestig that the strike is illegal. However Kenyan teachers have proved again and again, that just as they make heroic efforts in the classroom under conditions and for pay which those of us teaching in the North would not even consider, so they are heroic in their fight for justice.