The uncertainty about an impending lecturers’ strike starting on January 20 over an outstanding pay deal raises questions on the government’s attitude towards university education.
We have been treated to a circus of unmet promises and industrial strikes, which only caused more damage to university teaching and learning programmes with many parents and guardians also bearing the financial burden of the common institution closures whenever lecturers withdrew their services.
The Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) has vowed that its members will boycott work from next Monday if the government does not honour a 2017-21 collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
At the centre of the new standoff is the release of the Sh8.8billion for new salaries that was to be effected from November under the 2017-21 CBA, but wasn’t factored in the current budget.
Although Education Secretary George Magoha has pledged to have the amount factored for payment through a mini-budget, the whole matter raises doubt on the government’s commitment to support university education.
It is baffling that the government has on several occasions reneged on its promises to pay the lecturers, leading to avoidable industrial strikes.
Unfortunately, such musical chairs are destructive in the long run and pose an immediate direct threat to the all-important sector.
The government should review its attitude towards addressing this matter because we cannot afford to dream of an economic renaissance when we have little regard for the plight of our institutions of higher learning.
It is not possible to reinvigorate the economy when lecturers and universities are disregarded, demoralised, and are always fighting for pay. Universities should be centres of research and innovation that drive the economy.
The endless tussles between the State and the lecturers have removed the shine from the universities. Most training programmes have been affected and this is fast reflecting in the quality of graduates as confirmed by many employers.
It is time the government reviewed its stand on this matter and ensured the university lecturers got their dues. We should not commence the year with avoidable strikes. Dialogue would be key in averting the planned strike, but the State must pay up.