Wednesday July 18 2012

Teachers claim victory as two-day strike ends

Teachers claim victory as two-day strike ends

Teachers assemble at the Chogm gardens in Kampala yesterday after presenting a petition to Parliament. Some of the issues raised include raising their salaries to 100 per cent. Photo by Geoffrey Sseruyange 


Strike action by teachers in public schools expanded significantly across the country on the second and final day yesterday as Parliament received a petition about the action.

Reports from across the country indicated that more schools had joined in the strike after being probably buoyed by reports that participating teachers would not face any penalties from the Ministry of Education as had earlier been threatened.

Some schools that had remained in a semi-operational state on Monday went into full scale inaction yesterday.

A Daily Monitor survey around Kampala found no activity at schools like Buganda Road, Nakasero primary, Old Kampala, Nakivubo Blue and Bat Valley.

A teacher at Old Kampala Primary School found wearing a Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) T-shirt said: “I am just from Parliament. We have not taught today because we want the government to hear us out. It is not that we do not want to teach but our conditions are alarming.”
Ms Teopista Birungi, the secretary general of Unatu, said their action had been successful.

“We have achieved part of our objectives. The purpose of this demonstration was to communicate our position plus awakening the government about the worsening teachers’ conditions. As part of the success, the teachers’ issues are back and government has to listen.”

Parliament petitioned
Several teachers joined a coalition of civil society actors led by the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) to deliver a petition to Parliament highlighting the teachers’ demands.

The coalition, known as the Citizens Action for Quality Public Education (CAQPE) also comprises the Uganda Muslim Education Association, Forum for Education NGO’s in Uganda, the Uganda National NGO Forum and Action Aid International.

They said their cause is bigger than just teachers’ pay and want government and other education stakeholders to pay a broader look at the ailing education system in the country.

In the petition, the group insisted on a 100 per cent increment of salaries which would see the lowest paid teacher currently earning Shs273,000 doubled to Shs546,000.

Government announced it would offer only 50 per cent phased out over at least three years with an initial 15 per cent this year.
Ms Birungi rebuffed claims by Education minister Jessica Alupo that they had agreed not to go ahead with the strike.

“Unatu is not in the practice of holding casual talks with the government. We always hold formal discussions. It is wrong for the Ministry of Education to say that they officially met with us last week and we said that there was no strike,” Ms Birungi said.

She added: “What happened last week is that the ministry invited us as a third party in a meeting that was also attended by public service and finance ministry officials. We never discussed anything about striking or not.”

Daily Monitor teams in West Nile, Fort Portal, Masindi, Masaka and Luweero reported that there “was hardly any teaching” at most of the most of the schools they visited. Children could be seen playing in classrooms and in the compound but with no teachers.
Several teachers said they had support of the parents.

“We are surprised that many parents just heard an announcement over the different FM radio stations and did not allow their children to come and waste time at school,” a teacher in Luweero District, who declined to give their name for fear of reprisal, said.

The teacher added: “We have been meeting the parents and they have encouraged us to put pressure on government to have our salaries revised.”
At Blessed Sacrament Kimanya Primary School in Masaka Municipality, Shabiba Natukunda, a pupil in Primary Six said they have not had normal lessons since Monday, although the school’s director of studies, Ms Ruth Nakijje, had earlier told them that the school would not participate in the strike.

Additional Reporting Dan Wandera, Martins E. Ssekweyama, Michael J Ssali, Geoffrey Mutegeki, Enid Ninsiima, Clement Aluma & Felix Warom Okello Sam Opio Caleb, Fred Siminuyu, David Musengeri & Abubaker Kirunda.