The largest teaching union in Kenya - the Kenyan National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has issued its promised call for a strike in all schools starting on the first day of the new term, January 5th. As we reported earlier this month, teachers are campaigning for long awaited and promised salary increases. KNUT General Secretary, Walter Sossion said at a press conference: 'If no solution will have been found you will witness a major strike; teachers and learners should stay away from schools. We are urging the teachers to save every little coin they have because there will be a major confrontation.' The smaller post primary union KUPPET has given the govenment until the end of the month to come up with a solution before issuing a strike call.

The anger of teachers and their leaders has been increased by the bad faith of the government after they agreed to call off a strike earlier this year to allow children to sit their end of year exams. Despite this gesture the government refused to hold talks with the unions. The dispute goes back to 1997 when teachers were promised increases in their pay to give them a living wage. To date there has been no honouring of this pledge. While political elites continue to send their own children to private schools and vote themselves increases in allowances and salary, teachers are unable to make ends meet and the treasury has made it clear that no funds will be made available for a teachers pay rise in this financial year.

The situation is made more dangerous for the teachers by the increasing attacks on democracy by the government of Uhuru Kenyatta, which is rushing through draconian measures against amongst other things the right to assemble and protest. According to an African representative of Amnesty International: 'The cumulative effect of the amendments could return Kenya to the police state of the 1980s and 90s, and nullify recent progress on protecting human rights'. But as the chair of KNUT put it, 'If you plan to arrest us we will not run. If you plan to take us to court we are ready. We are ready to deal with you.'

As teachers prepare to put their liberty and survival on the line to fight for a living wage, the International Monetary Fund encourages the Kenyatta government to be 'fiscally prudent', foreign corportations continue to use beneficial tax arrangements to exploit the country's rich resources and Pearson promotes the Bridge Academy chain which charges parents to have their children educated in tin sheds by unqualified school leavers.