The Education Service Commission on Wednesday published pay-scales in the teaching service. A senior school principal topped off at about Shs1,687,000 in total pay and a primary school teacher or Education Assistant Grade III teacher starts off at Shs230,000 per month. These salaries have just benefited from a 25 per cent pay increment.
Things at Makerere University are marginally better. A lecturer earns Shs1,600,000 in monthly pay and a full university professor tops off at Shs5,700,000 per month. I must add that the entry level appointment as a lecturer is for PhD holders who normally have more than seven years of university education.
The rank of professor is normally earned by dons with at least 20 years of uninterrupted service at the university. Headmasters in the upper grades normally make it there after 20-30 years in the profession. It is expected for national schools and Grade I schools that holders of these positions hold advanced university degrees.
Education is a key to building a vital human resource. It is a backbone of a modern economy. The education sector in Uganda may still have a number of challenges but it has been a model in some respects.
The former Minister of Education, Ms Geraldine Namirembe Bitamazire, left a solid foundation for higher learning by passing a comprehensive legal regime regulating institutions of higher learning.
She devoted significant time in formalising a number of institutional practices and may have benefitted from decades of experience as the deputy chairperson of the Teaching Service Commission. She also understood the decades of patience required to build seniority in the system. She had been a graduate teacher first, before joining the civil service.
This sound framework in place led to the explosion of university education in Uganda upon which her successor has built by opening regional universities in parts of the country like Teso, Gulu and West Nile.
Teaching is first a passion and then a career. Many people forego lucrative career paths to stay in teaching.
At one time, the President, Vice President and Prime Minister were all former teachers at various levels.
One would expect that these high level allies would translate into solving the fundamental problem of pay inequity over time. Teachers are kicked like a bucket to the next person to a point where many of them live in the fear of being financially embarrassed for failure to meet their obligations.
The so-called Saccos, while relevant for certain reasons, are a poor financial infrastructure.
Members waste a lot of time acting as co-collateral for other group members and most people spend years borrowing to finance recurrent expenditure and consumption turning the Saccos into no better than payday loan sharks.
So a teacher whose means are already limited finds himself parting with half his pay protected by a payroll deduction collected by the money lender and the balance by the Sacco.
Financially stressed teachers give a poor impression of the profession and are a conduit for building wrong values in society.
Teachers find themselves in the same position like doctors who start performing abortions and a host of other deadly medical procedures under the table, including attending to child birth in private homes without any life-saving equipment.
Society starts to diminish the value it attaches to education in general.
At a minimum, the criminal justice system gets overwhelmed with the false value system and the costs to society remain high. There has to be a way to manage the economy without committing our beloved teachers to permanently precarious financial situations.
Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate. firstname.lastname@example.org