As many other small traders, Mutsemba knows that his shop can go under if he lets borrowers loose on the business because some of them may not pay, leading to losses.
But the trader, whose shop is located at a residential area, has been forced to change the rule this month.
He picked one of the exercise books he sells and drew rows to list names of customers who have borrowed from him this month and the items they have taken.
With a good number of his customers being teachers, Mutsemba had no choice but to sell his goods on credit.
“At least six of my top customers are teachers, buying from me for several years. I cannot forsake them now when they do not have money,” said Mutsemba.
Public school teachers in the East African have not been paid their September salaries by the government, through the Teachers Service Commission, making many cash-strapped.
The government argued that the teachers, who were on strike for the entire September to push for the implementation of a 50 to 60 percent pay hike as ordered by the Industrial Court, do not deserve to be paid since they did not work.
TSC paid salaries for only 42,973 teachers – out of a work force of 280,000, mainly head-teachers, their deputies and head of departments, who stayed in school during the September strike.
The withholding of the pay has led to untold suffering of many teachers across the East African nation, with businesspersons like Mutsemba coming to their rescue. The traders are lending the teachers both goods for use in their homes and cash.
“I have lent out money and goods like sugar, salt, bread and soap to all the teachers who buy from me. The highest amount of cash I have given out is 34 U.S. dollars to a teacher whose daughter was sick,” he recounted.
For goods, the trader said most of the teachers have borrowed between 10 and 15 dollars.
“I have put a ceiling at 15 dollars. I must moderate otherwise, I may not have money to buy more goods,” said Mutsemba, who added that he is lending out to the teachers expecting their money would come end of October and they will pay.
Kenya’s broke teachers said withholding of their salaries has turned them into paupers.
“This is a very rough month for us. I have borrowed cash and goods from shopkeepers at our estate that I believe I have lost respect and my dignity. Some of the traders who are lending us money are even school dropouts and they are happy that they did not choose our profession,” said primary school teacher Vincent Mbuthia, who teaches in eastern Nairobi.
The cash-crunch, according to Mbuthia, is diminishing the profession, with many teachers now being seen as beggars.
“The traders are lending us, but they are also talking about it. Some of us our debts have even become a public affair in the estates,” he said.
Kenya National Union of Teachers and Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) have sought court redress to push the TSC to pay members their salaries. The union and their lawyers are expected in court Monday.
On the other hand, a dozen of teachers from several parts of the East African nation have pitched tent at the TSC headquarters in Nairobi to push for their pay.
“We will camp here until we are paid our salaries. We will fast and pray for whatever time it takes because we are suffering at home,” said Kuppet executive from Kisumu John Hadulla. Enditem