Sunday April 20 2014

Government should give teachers their due

Strikes by teachers and lecturers over non-payment of wages seem endless. Unatu, the umbrella teachers’ forum, are pressing that government fulfils its pledge and implements a 25 per cent salary raise in the 2013/2014 financial year or no classes will open for the second term in May. At Makerere, Uganda’s premiere university, several lecturers are keeping a tight fist on students’ examinations results, protesting non-payment of their wages.

The constant strikes by the teachers are warranted. Without doubt, the poor remuneration of teachers affect the quality of education delivered to Uganda’s pupils. Teachers have been adjudged as incompetent and have been faulted on inducting pupils into learning by repetitive memorisation without understanding substance of academic subjects. But before we incriminate the teachers, we should address teachers’ poor and delayed pay, poor housing and transport, the overwhelming and ill-matched teacher-pupil ratios and overwork in UPE and USE schools and lack of support scholastic equipment.

The cat-and-mouse game between teachers and government should end. MPs on the Education committee, and stakeholders should support the good proposals in the National Budget Framework Paper for the FY 2014/15 but push the ministries of Education and Sports, Public Service, and Finance to find the teachers’ wages.

Government should use a holistic approach in resolving the issues of pay challenges. Previous attempts by government to address several Wage Bill fights across government departments have been scattered, irregular, and unpredictable. But Government must be commended on the establishment of the Salary Review Commission that seeks to harmonise remuneration and other related benefits for all public servants.

Government should, with urgency, undertake a comprehensive review, revision, and harmonization of the salary scale of all public servants. The broad discrepancies in remuneration across the public and other service commissions must be addressed.

MPs should push government to fulfil its obligation on the teachers’ salaries but should also ensure all civil servants at similar grade get equitable wage compensation.