Teachers, government should end standoff
Posted Monday, September 23 2013 at 01:00
The struggle by teachers for salary increment and for timely pay of their monthly salary has been a long one. Currently the focus is on the 20 per cent pay increment as agreed with President Museveni last year but the government has defaulted. The teachers are greatly disappointed and feel cheated. They believe the solution to the problem is to go on indefinite strike to compel the increased payment to be effected.
Teachers also have a number of the following options:-
-To resume full teaching but in serious protest and with conditions.
-To resume full but conditional teaching supported by some pay from parents.
-To resume selective teaching of candidates classes only (Primary 7, Senior 4 and Senior 6)
There appears to be public support and sympathy for the teachers’ cause, which must be sustained if it is to bear any fruit. However, with time, the teachers will be divided and the public support will wane. Moreover teaching is going on in private schools. It is, therefore, necessary for teachers to make quick strategic decision to resume teaching and to select available options. The parents must step in and play a critical role to negotiate with the teachers.
The victims of the fight between the teachers and the government are the innocent children to whom sympathy will shift by time, thereby making the teachers loose the struggle. The choice by the teachers should be a win-win situation. Children will resume learning. Teachers will keep their jobs though on low salary. Government will be given more time to budget for increased salary. Tension in the country caused by the strike will fade. Normalcy in the teaching profession will be restored.
The strike should also have a human face. Since teaching is a noble profession, teachers should not be seen as a greedy lot who would like to achieve their cause at all costs. The cost of the strike is to deny learning to the children. Teachers should not be seen as loving money more than their profession and the innocent children. By resuming to teach, teachers will win more public support and even raise their struggle to a higher level of continuous process.
For the moment, the strike has achieved its intended purpose. Parliament has spoken. The Executive has made another promise to fulfill. The time has come for teachers to resume teaching with some conditions if need be. Failure to resume teaching will cause untold suffering to our innocent children and turn the general public against the striking teachers. It will even be more disastrous if the candidates fail to sit their examinations. The candidates and their parents will be extremely bitter.
Teachers should not totally despair. They are political animals and can provide political solution to the problem since they are respected as local leaders and mobilisers. They should elect political leaders who support their cause.
The government should have a humane and diplomatic approach to the problem. Threats and insults cannot work. The government should respect teachers and continue to engage them in useful talks.
Teachers are intelligent people and are capable of understanding the economic situation in the country as well as genuine development priorities. However, the government should never tell lies nor make promises it cannot fulfill. The consequences can be disastrous.
Daniel Omara Atubo