The State Minister for Economic Monitoring should not rush to prosecute public school teachers over absenteeism as he told residents of Kabale District on radio at the weekend. This is not to say anyone condones teachers’ absenteeism as it weakens academic grades.
But in truth, minister Henry Banyenzaki, also MP for Rubanda West, is right to be concerned because of 8,000 pupils in Kabale District who sat for Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) last year, only about 412 of them passed in Division One. So Mr Banyenzaki can rightly claim the teachers are defrauding government because they are paid and yet they do not work. Indeed, a June 2014 report backs up Mr Banyenzaki’s assertion because it says more teachers seem to engage in private business at the expense of teaching.
But let us face it; the government has also not delivered enough on its sets of promises to teachers. So Mr Banyenzaki should also accept that government shares the blame for the actions of teachers. The findings show that out of 20 commitments made by the NRM government and Teachers’ Manifesto combined, government has only made progress on three promises and lagged behind on nine, and regressed on eight commitments.
Yet before the 2011 elections, teachers in the country presented the Teachers’ Manifesto to all aspiring politicians. But three years on, government and other elected politicians have failed to significantly satisfy the teachers’ demands.
The findings by Uganda National NGO Forum, Uganda National Teachers Union, and Coalition of Uganda Private School Teachers Association, say the teaching work force remains demotivated, paid late, but still teaches even as working conditions and welfare drop. And as might be expected, the result is the fall in education standards.
So Mr Banyenzaki should recognise that the poor quality of education in Uganda is because the condition of the teacher is wretched and government has done little to uplift the teachers’ welfare.
The government should, therefore, honour its commitments in education in line with the Teachers’ Manifesto, urgently sort out payroll issues and pay teachers’ salaries timely. And, as is with the army, the Teachers’ Savings and Credit Fund should be activated for teachers in both public and private schools. In addition, government should review policy on parents’ non-contribution under universal education to enhance pro rata pay for teachers.
But there are gains achieved by the government, including recruitment of more teachers.
Overall, though, government’s handling of teachers is poor and should do more.