Confusion marked yesterday’s opening of public schools for the crucial last term after some teachers reported for duty even as their colleagues across the country refused to call off the strike over a salary dispute.
Uncertainty over how schools will function continued with MPs demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi over a seven-day ultimatum he issued to teachers on Sunday. The PM, who warned that teachers who fail to report for duty will be replaced, was criticised for aggravating a situation that now affects the future of thousands of pupils and students.
Yesterday, the teachers union said they have advised their members to remain peaceful as the quest for a genuine pay increment remains on course. Where they are compelled to attend class by political authorities, the union advised their members to “withdraw their labour”.
Unatu’s call for industrial action was being adhered to in swathes of the north, east, Karamoja and West Nile. In western Uganda, some teachers had given in to threats from government, while central region, especially Kampala, presented a confused picture.
As the confusion reigned, State functionaries, including RDCs, District Internal Security Officers and DEOs worked to enforce the government’s directive. But in the schools which opened Daily Monitor reporters found teachers had reported, signed the attendance books as instructed, went to class but either did not teach or engaged in chit-chat with pupils.
At Kitante Primary School, teachers said they were at school “just giving students company”, a member of staff asked the government to explain “how we can use Shs200,000 that they give us in salary yet a sack of charcoal goes for Shs70,000.” Currently, the lowest paid teacher earns Shs263,000.
A number of schools reported a very low pupils turn-up and students, with one headteacher in Budaka saying: “The biggest challenge we have faced is that most children have stayed at home following the warning from teachers to continue with their strike.”
In Moroto District, of the 16 schools with 103 teachers, only two opened. And these had only head teachers. The pattern was repeated in Amudat where of 11 schools, only two were open, still with only head teachers present. RDC Stephen Nsubuga later confessed that “the situation is bad” after he found only a handful of pupils and no teaching taking place in a number of schools in his area.
In most parts of West Nile, schools were abandoned, and where teachers reported, no teaching was taking place. “Although 12 teachers came and signed they have all left because we cannot defy the call by our umbrella body,” a headteacher said. At Uturugang Boys’ Primary School in Zombo District, Primary Seven pupils resorted to teaching themselves. Teachers in western Uganda said they were sad that government was forcing them to risk the future of children.
In Kayunga, teachers said UPE scheme is being frustrated by government. “As we speak now, we have never got UPE funds for last term. How does government expect us to teach without chalk or books for making lesson plans and schemes of work?” a head teacher asked.
In Luweero, teachers traded accusations of betrayal by those who caved in to pressure.
Reported by: Isaac Imaka, Betty Ndagire, Yazid Yolisigira, Brenda Kashaki, Steven Ariong, Andrew Gulumaire, Fred Muzaale, Felix Warom, Patrick Okaba, Martin Okudi, Peter Aligo, Patrick Ongom and Robert Elema.