Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Union Lessons

More than 200,000 Kenyan teachers went on strike Tuesday to protest the diversion of government funds meant to hire more teachers and ease classroom overcrowding. The money has instead gone to the ministry of defense, whose spending is not publicly scrutinized.

"Children of this country are not enjoying equal opportunities," Wilson Sossion, who heads the Kenya National Union of Teachers said. "This is the struggle. We are not doing it this time around for a salary increment. We are doing it for the poor child of this country and for the poor parent of this country."

The union wants the government to give full-time jobs to 18,000 teachers hired on temporary contracts and hire an additional 9,040 teachers. Some 79,000 teachers are needed to reach the internationally recommended teacher to student ratio of one teacher to 35 students. Kenya's public schools see an average of 50 students for every teacher, though some classes have only one teacher for 100 pupils. The union projects a shortfall of 115,000 teachers in the next couple of years as the population increases.

Nearly 10 percent of 13-year-old Kenyan students cannot complete a math problem meant for 7-year-olds, according to research done earlier this year by Uwezo, a pressure group that aims to improve literacy among children in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Britain suspended payments to the Kenyan government intended to help poor schoolchildren after $45 million in international donor money went missing.

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