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Teachers defy order to move to AIDS-hit areas

KENYA

THE government has threatened to sack 8,500 primary and secondary teachers for defying transfers to districts where AIDS has killed many school staff.

Education minister Stephen Musyoka said teachers who have not reported to their new postings by September 1 when schools re-open for the third term will be dismissed. As civil servants, teachers are expected to work anywhere in the country.

The mass transfers to areas with staff shortages have thrown the teachers' union into disarray. National officials support the move, but the 33 union branches in over-staffed districts are opposed to it.

About 1,000 teachers from Nairobi will be posted to western Kenya, where many teachers have died of AIDS.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund, about 2,000 teachers are dying of AIDS in Kenya each year. Estimates indicate that 95,000 pupils in western Kenya lost teachers to IDS last year.

The drive to re-distribute the 240,000 teachers in the country's 17,000 primary and 3,000 secondary schools was ordered by the International Monetary Fund as one of conditions of resuming aid to Kenya. The government was also urged to stop employing new teachers until the teacher-pupil ratio rose from the current 1:31 to 1: 40.

Teachers from Nairobi and another 32 over-staffed districts will also be posted to schools closed last year as a result of drought.

A Kenyan government spokesman, Patrick Birgen, said that, in drought-hit areas, almost two million pupils had dropped out of school for the last two years. "Now that food is available we want those pupils back to school," said Mr Birgen.

However, about 2,500 teachers have opted for early retirement rather than report to districts affected by AIDS or go to re-opened schools in famine-stricken districts.

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