Continued industrial action by teachers is an inditement on the quality of governance in Uganda

Continued industrial action by teachers is an inditement on the quality of governance in Uganda

Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) members gesturing solidarity.

The subject of the industrial action by teachers of public primary schools and their non-science subject counterparts in secondary schools have entered the third week with no end in sight. The teachers are demanding an increment in their pay that is commensurate with the high cost of living in the country to date. The bone of contention is the recent action by government to increase the pay of science teachers by almost 300% while their arts counterparts remain on their paltry earnings.

It is understood that the civil servants in Local Governments are soon following suit with their own industrial action reportedly commencing at midnight on July 6th, 2022, demanding salary increment. It seems this industrial action was triggered by the increment of science teachers’ salaries in secondary schools which created inconsistency where a graduate teacher in secondary schools is now earning UGX 4 million ($1,081) per month while the Local Government officials who supervise the teachers – with some holding Masters Degrees and much senior in civil service, namely the Chief Administrative Officer and the District Education officer earn lower salaries of  UGX 2.3 million ($640.35) and UGX 1.7  million ($459.45) per month respectively.  This haphazard salary enhancement has caused a distortion that seems to have triggered a domino of industrial actions.

SecretsKnown has further learned about another looming industrial action by the non-teaching staff in public universities. It is recalled that the ongoing wave of industrial actions was preceded by similar industrial actions by medical doctors, medical interns, nurses, midwives, and clinical officers. The ceaseless industrial action in Uganda lately, begs the question about the quality of governance in Uganda. Could it be that the center can no longer hold firm after 37 uninterrupted years in power? Could President Museveni be spoiling his own record?

Former Botswana President Festus Mogae (1998-2008) during an interview with journalists in Abu Bakarr Jalloh and Mohammed Khelef  published at:

https://www.dw.com/en/mogae-some-africans-leaders-spoil-their-record-by-overstaying/a-38381870

said this about President Museveni:

“Museveni is one of the leaders I quote as an example. After he defeated General Tito Okello, he formed an inclusive government, he left nobody behind. All the groups, all the tribes [were there], and for the first ten years…And he did really unite the country. That was very good. For the first 10-15 years Museveni was my hero. But he is an example of people who spoil the good work they have done by overstaying because now Museveni is a different man, he talks in a different language. He relies more and more on the army. He has even put his son as head of the army, now he has moved him and he is in the office of the president. Many things that he is now doing, he would have criticized earlier.” – H.E. Festus Mogae former Botswana President.

Critics have and continue to argue, that whereas the philosophy of prioritizing the teaching of sciences in secondary schools is an important one, to merely increase the salaries of teachers without building the needed science infrastructure in schools such laboratories for Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Agriculture and Computers among others, will deliver no change. Majority of the public schools in Uganda have either no laboratories and the few that do have them, lack the lab equipment.

The Uganda national Constitution in Article 40 (b) provided for “equal payment for equal work without discrimination”, and the act of enhancing salaries of science teachers while their arts counterparts merely look on is being interpreted as an act of discrimination contrary to the constitution.

Already, a Kampala Lawyer, Robert Rutaro Muhairwe has reportedly petitioned the Constitutional Court over teachers’ discriminatory salary enhancement by Government. The Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) is vehemently opposed to what they also interpreted as discrimination in salary payment to teachers, and they are sticking to their guns to carry out with the industrial action until the salaries of arts teachers are enhanced as well.

As all this industrial action is happening, teaching in private schools where most Uganda middle-class parents including policymakers in government take their children, the situation is normal with teaching going on unabated. In the end, the loser is the Ugandan child from a poor family that cannot afford the costly private schools.

It is perplexing to note that whereas the majority of Ugandan voters take their children to government schools, there is no political party leader that is jumping to the opportunity of identifying with this cause. Could this be an indicator of the disconnect between political parties and social causes?

In the words of the late Nelson Mandela, “Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles. It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examinations by students”.

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