THE THREAT of strike action has forced the Kenyan government to back down on an attempt create a register of teachers suffering from HIVAids.
Ministers had ordered education officers and heads to draw up sick-lists to determine how many of the country's 247,000 teachers had Aids, but the directive was withdrawn after the Kenya National Union of Teachers threatened to walk out.
Ambrose Adongo, the union general secretary, accused ministers of discrimination and invasion of privacy. He said the register would be used to force infected teachers to retire to satisfy the World Bank.
The bank has demanded that 66,000 teachers are axed by 2002 and that teacher-pupil ratios shuld fall from 1:25 to 1:40 in primaries and from 1:20 to 1:35 in secondaries to reduce costs.
Schools would have to merge leaving many children without an education as they would have too far to travel.
The union accused the government of not telling the World Bank how Aids is affecting Kenyan education. Teacher recruitment was frozen at the bank's behest in 1998 and since then 15,000 have left. Union sources said most have died of Aids.
The epidemic has hit schools hard in western Kenya. In some areas drop-out rate among primary girls has shot up to 80 per cent, either because they have contracted the disease or have left school to look after sick relatives.