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KUPPET’s Full Statement on 2021 Labour Day

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The following is the KUPPET statement during Labour Day of 2021.

For the second year running, Kenyans mark the International Day of Workers (Labour Day) without a national event. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt national life, our teachers, students, and all workers are paying a heavy price.

Whereas Lenya has thus far been spared of the high death toll witnessed in other countries, the disease has wrecked damage on the national economy, affecting millions of livelihoods. Since the beginning of the pandemic, KUPPET has supported government efforts to flatten the curve.

The Union participated in the education sector committee advising the Cabinet Secretary on measures to limit the pandemic’s impact on schools an dto better prepare for the resumption of learning activities.

We mobilized our membership behind the scientifically proven interventions to ensure the success of the initiatiatives and safety of all Kenyans, including those in school communities.

The union appreciates the government’s efforts tfo fight this disease. These include the provision of new health infrastructure and services, work-from-home programs for non-essential or vulnerable public officers, public awareness campaigns, and efforts to ramp up vaccination for essential workers and teachers despite clear-cut constraints.

Concurrent with negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for 2021-2026 with the Teachers Service Commission, we have counselled fundamental reforms for post-COVID-19 education delivery in Kenya.

At our retreat with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) in March, the parties agreed that the CBA process will be concluded within this month of May, to ensure a seamless transition from the 2017-2021 CBA to the new one.

The new Competency-Based Curriculum, whose implementation will start in secondary schools in three years, will stretch beyond the limits of current staff establishment and infrastructure in schools.

The policy on 100 percent transition to secondary schools and the new class establishment had evealed a teacher shortage of 97,000 before the pandemic.

With just 25,000 teachers expected to retire from service by June 20, the TSC must take steps to convert current intern teachers into permanent employment, recruit at least 50,000 new teachers in the next financial year, and a similar number over the next three-year period.

The teaching service is also crying out for policies to ensure teachers’ welfare. The commission must urgently address inefficiencies in the medical cover and create guidelines for proper compensation for work to the Kenya National Examinations Council, the Ministry of Education, and other agencies enjoying regular services from teachers.

Away from the education sector, Kenya must invest in programs to safeguard workers’ employment and health rights, strengthen health systems and societal resilience.

While many projects were commissioned in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, most have not come upstream, while massive resources set aside for COVID-19 interventions have been squandered at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency and by county governments.

Indeed, such shameful sleaze in the middle of a pandemic constitutes nothing but a civilizational crisis. As a union, we commend the Nairobi Metropolitan Service for resisting the destructive trend and exercising rare foresight in revamping vital health facilities in the capital where medical services had largely ground to a halt.

To achieve the level of infrastructure needed to respond to crises such as COVID-19, Kenya must urgently invest in public institutions which serve more people cost-effectively and are more resilient.

The improved performance of public schools in the 2020 KCPE relative to previous years proves how better they coped with the ravages of the pandemic.

The world over, private healthcare providers, which have a vital role to play in improving economic competitiveness, have struggled against the pandemic or worsened the outcomes for marginalized demographics.

Over the past few weeks, Kenyans have emphatically watched as India, a newly industrialized and highly technologized country struggles to vaccine its people, despite its being the top supplier of vaccines and medical equipment for the developing world.

Because of COVID-19 lessons, the government’s interest must shift from large infrastructure projects to small projects in the rural areas, with high multiplier effects. Priorities should be given to employment creation, food production, public health systems, and cottage industries to address over-reliance on imports of food, essential drugs and other public goods.

The human suffering in Nairobi and major towns during the lockdowns should challenge policymakers to devise ways of reducing the migration of workers into urban areas in search of better job opportunities.

While we are hopeful that Kenya will receive enough doses of effective vaccines, this is the time to design future interventions against pandemics and disruptions to normal national life. It won’t be an easy journey, but we must try our best.

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