Ugandan science teachers' prayers for a salary increase were finally answered recently when the national budget reading had allocated a lumpsum amount to be added in the next financial year for their salary increase. However, this good news wasn't warmly received by the arts teachers.
Days later, under a teacher union body; the Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) in a statement released to the public, led the Arts teachers to industrial action in protest against the unfairness. Their complaint was why science teachers get a salary rise yet both departments still teach the same students equipping them with the same knowledge and also go through the same challenges as they do.
A few days later the Government with the president at the forefront of talks to have an equal salary raise; responded with backlash threatening to fire those teachers that were on strike if they didn't return to work within the next 3 days.
In response, The Uganda National Teachers Union defended its members calling for a need for equality.
The general secretary Mr. Baguma Filbert of UNATU released a statement earlier this week urging its members to stay strong and not give in to the intimidations from the government that they will be laid off permanently. “We are fighting for equal pay for all teachers, they must be motivated and happy to be able to deliver to their best because they love their job.” He said
It is such a shame that after suffering the most extended worldwide 2-year closure, the Ugandan education system still faces challenges like these.
It's even more saddening that the argument is about who teaches the most significant subjects in schools, not forgetting the image it portrays to the students who are trying to chase their careers to become anything they want.
The victims of this unfortunate circumstance include children/students who are now missing out on classroom learning, they are devastated, but so are their parents who just struggled to pay school fees only for the teachers to stand down shortly after.
Speaking to Mrs. Kiboneka Jane one of the oldest teachers at one of the government schools, She said, “I’ve been teaching SST (social studies) for 9 years now. I am very good at it meanwhile. I am more than just a teacher, I am a mentor, a mother, and a friend to most of these children. My students have all excelled and have been ranked number 1 nationwide. I've failed to understand why they’d think that we are of less value addition to their future yet we do more than they acknowledge. The fact that they can even go ahead to threaten to lay us off is even more alarming.”
Not only is the student-teacher ratio low today but most classrooms in these government schools do not have teachers. These teachers who are already stretched too thin are being asked to do more with less.
The Uganda teachers Union (UNATU) is doing its best to offer support to these teachers by lobbying and advocating for improved working and living conditions for their members who are the teachers.
Other stakeholders came out to call the government a detached regime that should instead divert the funds they use on corrupt ventures and instead use it to improve the welfare of all teachers equally.
Another renowned member of Parliament for his sense of humor Mr. Mbwatekamwa Gaffa questioned the president. “Are all MP’s scientists? Are the speakers of Parliament scientists? If you knew science was more important, why didn't you Mr. President go and study sciences? Why did you leave Dr. Kizza Besigye(an opposition leader), a scientist, to lead this country?
The Ugandan government through the Ministry of Public Service whose sole mandate is to provide fair human resource policies, that facilitate efficient and effective Public Service performance for National development in Uganda, together with the Ministry of Education and Sports are doing the contrary of their main goals. The increase in the salaries of only science teachers yet both teachers are working hard to ensure every student gets a bright future through education is alarming.
The government needs to play its role in ensuring that there is equality among teachers that teach both arts and sciences without any segregation which has led to both departments going against each other.
We stand with the teachers in this Industrial Action fight against unfair treatment because all teachers deserve equal pay and equal representation. Action needs to be taken now so that more children are not denied their right to quality education.