University unions oppose plan to privatize public universities

University staff are now demanding that the Government immediately withdraws public institutions of higher learning from State Corporation Privatization Bill, 2023.

Employees of public universities, represented by Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU), Kenya Universities Staff Union (KUSU) and Kenya Union of Domestic Hotels Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (KUDHEIHA) yesterday said every Kenyan has a right to education and rejected the idea of privatisation of institutions of higher learning.

Led by KUSU Secretary General, Dr Charles Mukhwaya, the unions said that the proposed Bill of privatisation of universities is a threat to the right to education in the country.

“This is a slap in the face of the 100 percent transition policy in basic education. It will deny the poor Kenyan child the right to education and only benefit those from rich families,” said Mukhwaya, in a joint press conference in Nairobi yesterday.

Mukhwaya, flanked by UASU and KUDHEIHA Secretary Generals Constantine Wasonga and Albert Njeru said the Government has failed to keep its promise to invest in quality education for all.

He said the UNESCO global education report, Africans allocate 4.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or 16 percent of their national budget to education.

They said this falls short of minimum education financing benchmarks of 6 percent of GDP and 20 percent of the national budget respectively. “This has created space for profit driven corporate and their partner foundations supported by international organizations to privatise and commercialise education,” he said.

The unions said that Governments are responsible for fair, progressive taxation systems to finance public education adding that the threat of privatisation and commercialisation of higher education in Kenya is likely to further threaten provision of quality public education, leaving children from rural and urban poor behind.

Similarly, the officials said the unplanned and irregular massive declaration of universities’ staff is knee jerk reaction and uncalled for and is not the cure of the problems facing these institutions.

He said stakeholders must sit to brainstorm on what ails these institutions and come up with long lasting solutions and way forward. “We condemn and warn Kisii, Rongo, Moi and Egerton universities for leading in irregularly declaring staff redundant without stakeholder involvement.

As centres of academic excellence and the crème de la crème of the society, universities’ perception and approach to solving challenges must be beyond reproach,” said Mukhwaya.

The union also wants the Government to immediately embark on urgent negotiations of the 2021-2025 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the unions.

Failure to these demands, Mukhwaya said all public universities’ employees will be forced to resort to other available means to reclaim the universities long lost dignity.

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