Over 1000 teachers working in the North Eastern area of Kenya are camping out at the headquarters of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) because they fear that their lives are in danger. The teachers originate from other parts of Kenya and say they are subject to what appears to be ethnic and religious abuse, as they come from Christian areas but are teaching in the largely Moslem North. Last November many teachers were among those massacred by Al Shabaab as they traveled by bus from the North Eastern town of Mandera to Nairobi.

Teachers say they had petitioned the TSC to send them elsewhere and replace them with teachers from the community, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Apparently now the government is threatening to airlift them back to the North East but the teachers are refusing to go back to work at the end of the teachers strike and demanding to be transferred. They are being supported by their union the Kenyan National Union of Teachers.

Wilsson Sossion, KNUT general secretary said: 'TSC should have used the December holiday to address the issue. The new code of conduct bars the government from forcing teachers to work in environments where their lives are under threat. KNUT is demanding that the teachers be transferred to other areas.'

Some internet reports from the North East dispute the teachers' claims, saying that children there are entitled to an education too and that the country should not be divided on ethnic and religious lines. One primary teacher who survived the bus massacre said: 'They can kill us but they will not polarise us along religious lines.' Nevertheless, it is also necessary for teachers to feel safe at work. A similar situation obtains in the North of Nigeria where over 70 teachers have been killed by Boko Haram.  In both cases violence is fuelled by poverty and hopelessness, while governments fail to give teachers, students or communities either the funding and services or the security they need.