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Kenya: lecturers resume work amid crackdown by universities

Ouma Wanzala

A number of lecturers have started to resume work although at a slow pace as universities crack down on those who are defiant.

At Kenyatta University, students reported back on Monday, and they have started to learn. Learning has also resumed at Technical University of Kenya (TUK) and University of Nairobi (UoN).

This came after lecturers in these and other institutions were forced to individually sign commitment letters as the 31 public universities move to end the two-month strike.

At UoN, more than 35 lecturers have received suspension letters after declining to resume work. Those who are not working have also been denied their salaries.

Cautioned Lecturers

Students leaders have also been roped in by vice-chancellors, and they have cautioned lecturers who will disrupt learning of dire consequences.

Security has been beefed up in universities to ensure that those who want to teach are free to do so. At TUK, student leader Mark Oroko said learning resumed on May 2.

But yesterday, Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) and Kenya University Staff Union (Kusu) condemned the tactics that have been employed by universities to ensure learning resumes.

The two unions protested the harassment of its members by police and universities’ management, saying it was against the law. They maintained that no learning was going on in those institutions. Uasu Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga also cautioned those signing commitment letters.

Striking Employees

“There are police officers in the grounds of Masinde Muliro University, Masai Mara University, Pwani University and Kenyatta University, who have been brought in by universities to try and force striking employees back to work, brutalise those who refuse, and disperse peaceable assemblies,” he said.

Kusu Secretary-General Charles Mukhwaya said: “Vice-chancellors should stop using students to undermine their lecturers.”

He said the action by the police and management is a blatant violation of article 37 and 41 of the constitution of Kenya which guarantee the right to peaceful assembly and right to strike.

He cited the harassment of staff at Kenyatta University by police saying they used live bullets to disperse the lecturers.

“Uasu demands that Kenyatta University management desist from the barbaric and inimical behaviour hence forth,” said Dr Wasonga.

Incite students

He went on: “We have been aware of an evil plot hatched by university management to incite a section of students against lecturers. No evil attempt to separate students and their lecturers will succeed.”

Kenya University Staff Union (Kusu) Secretary General Charles Mukhwaya reminded students that lecturers are the one who will teach them, prepare them for exams, mark the exams and prepare them for graduation.

“Vice-chancellors should stop using students to undermine their lecturers,” said Dr Mukhwaya.

The strike that started on March 1 entered its 69th day with lecturers insisting that they will only go back to work once they have negotiated, signed and the CBA implemented.

Security provision

However, Vice-chancellors Committee chairman Francis Aduol denied the allegations saying police are only in universities to provide security.

“We usually have police officers in campuses and no such officers have harassed lecturers at all,” said Prof Aduol.

He also denied allegations that Universities management are using students to threaten and intimidate lecturers.

“We cannot incite students to harm their lecturers and they need to explain to us how this is being executed,” said Prof Aduol.

Maasai Mara University Vice-chancellor Mary Walingo also denied the allegations noting that the institution has since closed after examinations and students will be reporting back in September.

Harassment of staff

“We concluded our examinations and students are now home. We have no officers on the ground to harass staff,” said Prof Walingo.

Dr Wasonga said despite efforts by lecturers to engage the Ministry of education, they are still being harassed by university management.

“There is no fault line between students and lecturers, as some university management would want us to believe, but there is an orchestrated campaign by managers to stir up hostility and conflict in our universities,” said Dr Wasonga.

He asked parents to take their children home saying there safety in universities is not guaranteed noting that the strike will take long time unless the government tables a counter-offer.

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