Teachers can lead the call for change

By: GABRIEL DOLAN

The latest Infotrak poll revealed that 62 per cent of Kenyans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, with 41 per cent identifying corruption as the greatest obstacle towards stability and growth.

Yet, the public’s confidence in the current crop of politicians ability to put things right is fading by the day.

Mr Kenyatta’s popularity has dropped by half from 59 per cent to a mere 33 per cent.

Opposition leader Mr Odinga may have risen nine points to 28 per cent but hardly looks like a serious bet for 2017.

Over 20 per cent of those polled are undecided as to whom they would vote for, a figure that translates into a vote of no confidence in what is currently on offer.

Put another way, a growing mass of Kenyans are extremely dissatisfied with their elected leaders and are yearning for a credible alternative.

Disillusionment with elections has reached an all time high not helped of course by the enormous ‘chickengate’ scandal involving the IEBC that remains unaddressed.

Are there credible alternatives on the horizon or will 2017 produce the same predictable pledges from the same old faces?

Yet, sometimes, leaders emerge from the most unlikely of places or in the most unusual of circumstances.

Guatemala recently elected a stand-up comedian as its President.

The Solidarity movement of ship workers singlehandedly brought down communism in Poland in the 1980s and its leader, Lech Walesa, was elected President in 1990.

TEACHERS’ CLOUT

A single issue with the support of a mass movement has the capacity to unite a nation and transform public imagination.

The NCEC grasped the imagination and support of Kenyans in 1997 around issues of reform.

Had they kept their nerve and not been infiltrated by suspect politicians, they could have wrestled Kenya African National Union (Kanu) from power.

That scenario is being replicated in 2015 with the teachers unions.

Like the Gdansk workers, teachers have the emotional support of the nation as well as the numbers.

What other organisation can boast of 280,000 active, paid up members?

Teachers are found in the most remote parts and remain the most informed, respected and influential members of most communities, especially in rural areas.

They also have a very effective communication and network system. Teachers pose are a greater threat to the Jubilee government than the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (Cord).

DIVIDE AND RULE

The government knows that and the decision not to pay September salaries nor to transfer union dues was meant to not just clip their wings but to humiliate them back to the negotiating table.

That strategy led them to the begging table at State House.

The government’s intention is to divide and break the unions, regardless of the consequences on public education.

The argument of lack of funds to increase teachers’ salaries carries no weight when we read daily of the growing corruption, wastage and theft.

Teachers’ welfare is a social justice issue that highlights the great inequality in society.

Teachers, however, need to broaden their agenda to include more matters beyond their immediate needs.

The next few days are telling. Will the unions succumb to threats and inducements or will they hold out and broaden their support and agenda?

They have the potential to lead a movement but have they the courage, nerve and integrity?

SOURCE: DAILY NATION