Kenyan teachers are now in the fourth week of their strike for pay justice. The government is still refusing to honour the pay rise, despite being ordered to pay up by the courts. Last night, the Kenyan President intervened to say that the country could not afford a pay rise, because it would not have any money left to pay for development. This is ironical on two counts - firstly because it is widely believed by governments (including the Kenyan one) and international financial institutions that education is one of the most important levers for development. Secondly because the government allows global corporations to avoid billions of dollars worth of tax.

On Friday the government took the provocative decision to close all schools, including those in the private sector, in an effort to put pressure on the teachers. However this decision was overturned by the courts this morning. And at a press conference, the General Secretary of the teachers union KNUT said the strike would go on, until the government honoured its commitment to the teachers .

Despite strenuous efforts by the government to discredit the teachers, they have garnered huge support, not least from the trade union confederation and the opposition group CORD as well as the main parents' organisation. As one press commentator put it:

It's instructive that the same government has found enough resources to award police officers a hefty pay rise that would see the lowest cadre of cops, after six months training in police academy, earn a basic salary of Sh32,000. A P1 teacher starts with Sh16,000 after putting in three years in college.

Or as another wrote:

The reason why leaders who manage public health and education don’t care about fixing their myriad problems is a class apartheid that gives leaders and the rich their own private hospitals and schools, doctors and teachers that are well paid and don’t go on strike, unlike public schools and hospitals that are poorly provided and their teachers and doctors go on regular strikes because they are too poorly paid to concentrate on treating and teaching rather than in fighting for money. 

While teachers in Kenya, paid poverty wages, struggle to teach often in impossible conditions, with some of the largest class sizes in the world, companies like Pearson are steadily encroaching on public education, investing in chains of 'low fee' private schools like Bridge Academies. It is a perfect storm for Kenyan teachers - they are facing the imposition of performance pay, privatisation, impossibly large classes and a government which puts aside money for a glossy laptops for schools programme, while there is no funding for basic infrastructure.

Solidarity with the Kenyan Teachers!