The Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) has given government up to June 23 to drop what they describe as a selective and discriminative salary enhancement for science teachers in public schools or face an industrial action.
The ultimatum follows protracted debate around whether science teachers should receive a salary enhancement proposed by the president or get paid monthly allowances starting in the next financial year.
Filbert Baguma, the Unatu general secretary, told The Observer yesterday that the teachers’ umbrella body has unanimously agreed with science and arts teachers to lay down their tools if no progress is realised.
“We want to make it clear to government that discrimination of teachers is not the order of the day. On Saturday, June 23, we shall be awaiting any communication from government and if it does not come through, on Monday [June 25] our industrial action starts straight away without engaging government,” Baguma said. “We have communicated to all teachers this position and they are on standby.”
In 2017, President Museveni promised to improve salaries for only science teachers on grounds that they are few and difficult to find.
Government proposed that the gross salary for science teachers with a degree be Shs 2m while an arts teacher with the same qualifications is to earn a much lesser figure of just Shs 600, 000. For teachers with diplomas, the proposed salary is Shs 1.75m for a science teacher and Shs 400,000 for their arts counterparts.
Baguma described the proposals as unfair since science teachers are already earning more than arts teachers with the same qualifications.
Recently, parliament observed that while government intends to prioritise teaching of sciences, the proposed increment will bring about salary disparities.
“The amount allocated towards enhancement of the science teachers’ salaries should be used to recruit the 2,000 science teachers so that schools without any teachers for science subjects can be supported,” reads part of a report compiled by the parliamentary committee on education and sports.
Also, UNATU national chairperson Zadock Tumuhimbise said the salary proposal is a trick by government to divide the hitherto united teaching fraternity.
“In this salary enhancement, the president is even targeting science teachers in secondary schools, leaving out those in primary schools who play a vital role in helping children appreciate science subjects. So, how do you expect such a demotivated primary science teacher to motivate a learner?” Tumuhimbise said, adding that there is no shortage of science teachers.
Instead, he said, most teachers are loitering on the streets due to lack of employment opportunities in government schools.
His views were backed by Farouk Wandera, a science teacher at Mbale Secondary School, who reiterates that many teachers have been transferred but their positions are not filled by the Education Service Commission. Wandera said he supports the planned strike.
“MPs are pretending to fight for us but they are misleading the public. They are hypocrites and greedy. They quickly push for their enhancement but when it is our turn, they have failed to agree with government. Teachers are now confused,” Wandera said.
Meanwhile, a source who preferred anonymity at the ministry of Public Service, said even the question of selective enhancement as proposed by Museveni is far from answered.
“We are still undecided. We are still engaging parliament [and the] ministries of finance and education about that proposal. The truth is that there are no funds and that is why everything is not moving smoothly,” said the source.
Attempts to get a government response to the looming strike were unsuccessful by press time as senior education ministry officials were said to be attending a meeting at State House yesterday.