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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Agony for Kenyan university students during Lecturers strike

by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- A week ago, Vincent Odour, a bachelor of commerce student at a Kenyan university, went home after the institution closed for 10 days over insecurity arising from repeat polls held on Oct. 26.

Odour, a third-year student, expects to return to campus next week so that he can complete the second semester and move to the final year starting January 2018.

However, this would not be the case as lecturers in the East African nation downed their tools on Wednesday to push for implementation of their collective bargaining agreement, which would make them earn more.

It is the third time this year the 9,000 lecturers in public universities are going on strike seeking to push the government to pay them 50 million U.S. dollars salary arrears.

And as the lecturers’ strike, Odour and over 200,000 other students in the institutions of learning in Kenya would be facing disruption of their studies for as many times this year.

"This year has been unfair to us.

"This is the fourth time our studies have been disrupted, if it is not lecturers’ strike, it is students’ strike or elections.

"Universities closed before Aug. 8 elections, we resumed studies but had to close again for the Oct. 26 repeat elections.

"This is too much," said Oduor on Tuesday.

The student, as many others, has stayed on campus barely four months this year due to the disruptions, an indication that he may not finish his studies on time.

"Ever since I joined campus two years ago, this has been the most disrupted academic calendar.

"The past two years were better," said Eunice Machuhi, a student at Nairobi University.

The university was among those closed weeks over the repeat elections following ethnic and political tensions among students.

The college was closed indefinitely by its Senate and Machuhi, who studies Bachelor of Education, and her colleagues hope to return to college perhaps next year.

"We have not heard communication yet from the university but indications from our students leaders show that we may be recalled next year.

"I was hopeful of finishing my studies in 2019 but this will now extend."

The ongoing lecturers’ strike therefore exacerbates an already worse situation, with many students currently idling at home.

"It is a tricky situation for us because you cannot even look for a job since you do not know if we would be recalled back to campus the next day," said Machuhi, who is now involved in church activities to while time away.

According to the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) secretary-general Constantine Wasonga, all the lecturers in East African nation’s 31 public universities have boycotted duty until government meets their demand.

"There is no turning back unless the government implements the new rates for both basic salary and house allowance.

"It is time to strike, strike and strike," Wasonga said on Wednesday.

Wasonga accuses universities of refusing to effect a pay raise for workers to new brackets negotiated under the 2013-2017 collective bargaining agreement.

"All staff were to receive new salary based on the 100 million dollars pay deal.

"Only five universities have made the adjustments," he said.

Universities, however, termed the strike premature as discussions were still ongoing.

Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum chairman Paul Kanyari said Wednesday lecturers were impatient but the deal was on, though there was delay.

"We have the promise and it is still there.

"We are negotiating and trying to get them to understand," said Kanyari.

He noted that the government, which has currently raised public borrowing especially from the domestic market to push internal debt to 21 billion dollars, according to Treasury, was yet to release money needed to move workers’ pay upwards in line with the signed salary deal.

However, most of the students suffering currently are those in undergraduate level as for some universities, part-time post-graduate students are in session.

At the University of Nairobi in the central business district, post-graduate evening classes are currently ongoing even as undergraduate students stay at home.

"We have been informed that classes would go on until when we sit exams in December.

The strike started yesterday but our classes were not interrupted.

Even when the university was closed two weeks ago, we were not affected,’ said Sylvia Wanjiku, a Masters student.

           

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