Thought and Ideas
Meagre pay but somehow they survive
Posted Sunday, October 6 2013 at 01:00
The teachers might have reached an agreement with the government on pay raise demand, but the nightmare of budgeting for the little money amid a gloomy economy still stares at them. Sunday Monitor’s Steven F. Mandu looks at how teachers survive on their meagre salaries.
Today, people are faced with a lot of expenses to incur, and many are struggling to match their salary with their needs. A case in point is teachers who just until last week went to teach following an industrial action. They had demanded that the government increases their pay by 20 per cent. The teachers argued that their salaries, ranging from Shs200,000 to about Shs380,000, were not matching with the current economy.
Worse still, those with children at school indicated that they were meeting the demands through their noses. Besides school fees the teachers are faced with several basic needs. For those living and teaching in urban areas, the situation is more painful. They have to split the little money to cater for rent, transports, feeding, school fees, and medical bills, among others.
According to Catherine Namususula, a teacher at St Andrews C/U Primary School in Mbalala, Mukono District, who earns Shs330, 000, the money hardly caters for half of her needs. She says her transport to and from school costs her Shs24,000 per month, pay school fees for her two children which is Shs450,000 per term. Namususula adds that she also has to spare about Shs100, 000 for dependents.
Because she lives in Mukono Town, feeding is another item that takes a big portion of her salary since she does not have a garden to harvest her own food. “I spend approximately Shs150,000 per month on feeding alone which is almost half my salary,” laments Namususula. With the overwhelming demands, saving a penny just remains a dream and the situation only makes her look to the nearest loans office.
For Elizabeth Khainza, who teaches in the same school and earns the same salary as Catherine Namususula, transport to and from school is her biggest burden since she teaches in Mukono and yet stays in Bweyogere. Khainza says every day, she has to part with Shs4,000. This translates to Shs80,000 per month. Although she has struggled to see her children complete school, Khainza still has two children who together need Shs500,000 per term for school fees.
Since Khainza has been able to put up her own house with the help of loans taken from the bank, she is relieved of the problem of rent but still like any other town dweller, cannot survive the burden of buying food for her family since her husband works far away and may not be always available. Even for Eric Nakhosi, who teaches at Bubulo Secondary School in Manafwa District and lives in the village, he finds it hard to match his salary with what is expected of him.
Nakhosi gets food from his gardens and does not spend on rent.
However, he cannot survive the burden of paying fees for his children, dependents and himself. “With a monthly salary of Shs450,000, I am faced with a dilemma of equating it to my needs and so I always make sure that I look out for priorities and ignore luxuries,” explains Mr Eric Nakhosi.
He says apart from fees, he also incurs costs on transport where he parts with Shs20,000 every week. Since he has six children, Nakhosi says the burden of paying medical bills is what he cannot do away with since three of them are sickly and require close attention and frequent medical check-ups. He adds that he spends about Shs50,000 on electricity and all these almost stretch beyond his salary.
However, Nakhosi explains that in order to manage, like many teachers survive, he has been taking bank loans in order to cater for some of his needs like education. It is out of these loans that he was able to construct the house he lives in.
Nakhosi says in order to meet the needs he is faced with, he also has to combine his salary with that of his wife who is also a teacher. He adds that since he is in the village he supplements his salary with some small scale commercial farming where he is rearing a few pigs.
According to one teacher at Luzira Secondary School who preferred not to be named, and is not yet on the government payroll, dividing up the little he gets from the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) is a difficult task. Out of the Shs250,000 that he earns, Shs100,000 goes to rent and Shs30,000 goes to electricity and water bills.
He says since he is living in Kampala, he spends a lot of money on feeding and generally looking after his family which costs him close to Shs150,000 a month. He explains that his needs go beyond his salary but he tries to moonlight in order to survive. This is the extent to which teachers are going against all odds to make ends meet as they still negotiate with the government for a pay increment. The strike might have been suspended, but the demands and needs the teachers face back at home still stare at them.
What govt, teachers agreed on
A copy of the agreement seen by the Daily Monitor recently indicated that Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu), which called the industrial action in order to make a case for a 20 per cent salary increment for teachers, gave the government three options from which to choose.
The first option was that the government could defer fulfillment of the 20 per cent increment to January next year, while the second option was that teachers would forego their 20 per cent demand for this 2013/14 Financial Year and instead get a consolidated 35 per cent pay rise in the 2014/15 Financial Year. The third proposal to government was that it could instead swap the 15 per cent pay rise for the 2014/15 financial year with the 20 per cent being demanded this year.