It is now close to a week since teachers downed their tools. It is not in dispute that this strike is harming school-going children and jeopardising their future. Attempts to get the teachers back into class hit a snag after talks between their representatives and Ministry of Education officials collapsed.
Be that as it may, one can scarcely fail to feel for teachers. They are entrusted with a most critical task. Nearly all, if not all, of the brilliant minds we encounter went through the hands of teachers.
Doctors, lawyers, journalists, pilots, engineers among other professionals are the handiwork of dedicated teachers. Yet despite going to great lengths in churning out these professionals, whose role in nation building cannot be gainsaid, teachers still take home a pittance, as pay, every month.
One cannot, therefore, fault teachers for voicing their discontent with the terms and conditions under which they labour. They are raising a point that must of necessity be looked into and urgently so. The argument by the government that there is no money to pay teachers is hardly convincing. It is foolhardy to attempt to convince teachers that state coffers are empty when MPs take home close to Sh1 million a month and are even toying with the idea of increasing their pay.
It is all the more rankling that in the face of the crisis that is the teachers strike, the two principals, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, have remained stunningly silent. The inescapable message their silence is sending out to teachers is that their predicament is not deserving of immediate attention. The two should be reminded that treating teachers with such disdain will only serve to worsen the situation.
It should, nonetheless, not be lost to teachers that an immediate salary increment of 300 per cent is unsustainable. They, together with the government, should come round to an agreement that will see the implementation of the increment take place over a number of years. This will go a long way in solving the current impasse.