Thursday, July 18, 2013

100 days of...NUTS?

Whether anyone believes anymore that Wilson Sossion and the nuts at the Kenya National Union of Teachers, KNUT, have the interests of the members of the union at heart is best left to the rose-tinted glasses crowd. In a month, the KNUT leadership has instigated a nation-wide teachers' strike, refused to negotiate with the Teachers Service Commission, TSC, refused to negotiate with the Cabinet Secretary for Education, had orders made against their strike, been sued for contempt, been one-upped by the rival Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers, KUPPET, capitulated to the TSC's demands and wound up their strike. In that month, hundreds of thousands of Kenyans have missed school and, because of our national obsession with scoring an "A" in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education or the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, their parents have been forced to dig ever deeper into their meagre savings in order to raise the money for emergency coaching of their children. The images on the evening news showing teachers "demonstrating" in the streets, parents begging for "sanity to prevail", the TSC CEO looking increasingly haggard, and the Cabinet Secretary increasingly combative, have not covered any of the players in this sad affair in glory.

Instead, it is the stoic attitude of the hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who missed school, and vital weeks of preparation for their examinations, who must be commended.Of course there is always the possibility that their reaction to the strike will only be felt after the final results of their Standard Eight or Form Four exams come in. If the national trends in success or failure hold true, perhaps, any violent reaction among the ex-candidates will be muted and limited to a few flashpoints. But if the trends change, especially if there is a greater than normal rate of failure, none can predict how far and how wide the reaction, violent or otherwise, of the ex-candidates will be. what is certain is that the jubilee government is not acquitting itself admirably when it comes to industrial action among public sector workers. This is not a surprise; Mwai Kibaki was quite inept at it while Moi simply bribed or jailed those who would dare go on strike.

It is why it is very odd that the National Assembly has not held public inquiries as to the causes of the teachers' strike. What has been bandied about in the press is less than revealing. All talk of Gazette notices simply fails to address why a government that is about to spend sh 1.6 trillion is unable to find sh 50 billion or so to pay teachers in line with a deal that had been concluded sixteen years ago. The entire membership of the National Assembly is a disgrace. The Speaker is more interested in seeing if he has the moxie to outshine the irreplaceable Kenneth Marende. Majority Party Leader is a sheep in wolf's clothing; a follower rather than a hunter and he will follow the National Executive's lead even if it leads him off a cliff. Who can even remember who the Minority party Leader is? Francis Nyenze has been so off-line it's a wonder there hasn't been a coup against his leadership yet. It is his Deputy who wants to be seen to be doing things, but given his intemperate nature, it is a matter of time before he is treated with the same level of contempt that Sharif Nassir and JJ  Kamotho were treated by the chattering classes.

The idea of representative government, as epitomised by the phrase Republic of Kenya, is that the people, that is, voters, choose the men and women who will represent their interests in the National Assembly. The National Assembly, despite the nascent fascistic desires of all presidents, is not an appendage of the National Executive; it is, or should be, the only institution that is not held hostage to the base desires of the National Executive or the corrupting power of the Judicial classes. here, it is the voice of the people that must ring; not the interests of the fat-cats that got the National Executive to the Seat of Power. It does not suffer from the pretend-dignity of the Judiciary where lofty words tend to hide intense hatreds and biases. In the Houses of Parliament, elected representatives are supposed to fight, even fight dirty, for the interests of the common man, the man on the street, or, in this case, the child hoping to score an "A" in the KCPE or KCSE.

Instead, whether this was the intended outcome or not, the National Assembly has become the most reviled house of representatives in a very, very long time. we were under the impression that the Tenth Parliament was pretty crass; the Tenth cannot hold a candle to the hyenas in the Eleventh. When it comes to extra-selfish self-aggrandising, the Eleventh would probably put to shame Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to shame for their level of shopping at the taxpayers' expense. In the four weeks that our children have not been taught, the overwhelming attention of the KNUT leadership, the Cabinet Secretary, the flower girls of the National Assembly, the teachers and the talking heads on TV has been to pretend to be reasonable or resolute, depending on the audience, and fucking over the children of Kenya at all times. When the history of industrial action in Kenya is written, readers will look at the halcyon days of the 1960s and 1970s in wonder, because the buffoons in charge in the 1990s and the beginning of the Twenty-first Century have done a singularly impressive job of proving that they care little for the law, the rule of law, the rights of Kenyans or any of the lofty buzz-words that are fashionable today. They care a great deal about the size of their wallets, even if it comes at the expense of workers or students.

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