DADAAB, 25 January 2013 (IRIN) - Close to 40,000 primary school children in Kenya's northeastern Dadaab refugee complex have had their education interrupted by a two-week-long teachers' strike over unpaid salaries.
Due to funding difficulties, the African Development and Emergency Operation (ADEO), a local NGO that was responsible for primary education in Dadaab's Ifo camps, had to hand the programme over to another NGO, Islamic Relief, on 1 January. However, ADEO has not paid more than 600 teachers from 19 schools their December 2012 salaries.
The strike has been ongoing since the school year started on 7 January.
"I will not go to class until my little money is paid," said Ina Jama Hire, a teacher at Horsed Primary School.
"There have been uncountable promises which were never fulfilled, and we have lost patience now. It is unfortunate that meagre incentives given to the refugee teachers are delayed for almost two months," said Abdikadir Abdille Burash, one the representatives of the teachers' association. "Although some of us attended the schools this week, we want UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency] to immediately intervene."
ADEO, whose problems started in November, when teachers' salaries were paid later than usual, says it is dealing with a number of issues, but paying teachers' outstanding salaries is its top priority. The organization is involved in negotiations with the teachers to ensure that the school calendar can resume on 28 January.
Humanitarian agencies in Dadaab provide services to a population of 500,000 - in a camp built to house just 90,000 - but say they are strapped for cash. According to UNHCR, up to 60 percent of primary school-aged children in the complex are out of school; just one-third of girls between five and 13 go to school, while for those aged 14 to 17, one in 20 are enrolled.
"The funding situation is critical. While UNHCR has the same global budget as 2012, there are a number of simultaneous global emergencies, including Syria and Mali, so the Kenya budget is smaller than last year," said Mans Nyberg, senior external relations officer at UNHCR's Dadaab sub-office.