Nairobi — The government has ordered the immediate closure of all public primary schools following the teachers' strike, which is now in its fourth week.
Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi said primary schools will remain shut until the standoff between the tutors and the government is resolved.
"The primary school teachers continue to participate in an illegal and unconstitutional strike having refused to comply with the legal directives of the Teachers Service Commission - in other words their employer - which is in breach of their code of employment and law," he explained.
Kaimenyi however clarified that students in secondary schools will continue with their studies following a deal struck with the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET).
"The government appreciates the agreement made between the Teachers Service Commission and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers that has returned normalcy to post primary institutions," Kaimenyi said.
Even as he announced the closure of all public primary schools, Kaimenyi sought to assure those sitting their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams this year that arrangements have been made to ensure they are not disenfranchised.
"The government assures all class eight pupils, parents and the public that adequate arrangements have been made to address their situation with respect to their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations," he said.
Kaimenyi's assurances have however been criticised by the Consumer Federation of Kenya (COFEK) which threatened to seek legal intervention if the schools are not reopened within seven days.
"That the closure does not affect pupils in private schools, sitting for the same national examinations, can only amount to discrimination against majority pupils from humble backgrounds," COFEK Program Officer Margaret Obondo indicated.
Obondo described Kaimenyi's move to close the schools as ill-advised and in contravention of the constitutional guarantee to education.
"The action by the government is unfortunate as it puts the KNUT leadership off the hook since they cannot be in a position to comply with the court order calling off the strike when the schools have been shut. The court order may now be overtaken by events," she explained.
The closure may very well be overtaken by events as the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) met with Deputy President William Ruto and are believed to have agreed to call off the strike.
Perhaps pre-empting the accusation of disenfranchising class eight pupils in public school, Kaimenyi refused to commit himself on whether or not class eight pupils in private schools will continue with the mock examinations scheduled to begin on Thursday.
"Once we decide when to reopen the schools it will be necessary for us to sit down with the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) and all stakeholders so we can basically agree on the way forward," Kaimenyi side stepped.
When reached for comment by Capital FM News, KNEC Secretary Paul Wasanga also avoided a straight answer saying, "We'll talk later."
The closure of public primary schools on account of the strike called by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) 23 days ago mocks the Teachers Service Commission's move to sack and replace striking teachers.
Kaimenyi's directive that all public primary schools be closed comes only two days after he instructed parents to ensure their public primary school going children report for classes.
Olive Burrows has been writing features for the last five years having studied communication at Daystar University. She hopes to make a difference through human interest features and is passionate about the environment. She hopes to grow her experience doing radio and video features at Capital FM and to contribute to the brand's tradition of trend setting.