The Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC) has halted payments for all its employees in the Catholic Church privately-owned education institutions across the country.
The Catholic Church through its dioceses, archdioceses and several specialised departments, owns over 6,000 education institutions employing hundreds of thousands of both staff and support workers. However, a portion of them is grant funded by the government.
In a letter addressed to all diocesan and archdiocesan education officers, Rev Fr Ronald Okello, the National Executive Secretary for education at Uganda Episcopal Conference advised that given the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, the dioceses should suspend payments of all staff in privately owned schools.
"You need to notify your staff and mutually agree on unpaid leave especially those on active contracts," Rev Fr Okello's letter. He adds that the education institutions should also, notify the National Social Security Fund and Uganda Revenue Authority to avoid penalties of statutory deductions.
Rev Fr Okello explains that most of the Church-run schools are run on charity and money paid by learners in the form of school fees whose taps have been cut off for more than four months leaving the church with no other alternatives to keep the payroll running.
He says that the decision will as well affect teachers and instructors in government-aided institutions who are not on the government payroll.
Before the declaration, individual dioceses like Masaka had already sent out messages indicating that they could no longer support their staff. Many of them called upon the faithful and school management committees to look out for relief in terms of food and other essential items to support the affected.
Recently, there was an exchange between private school proprietors and the Ministry of Education which directed institutions not to suspend contracts of their staff and to duly pay them during the ongoing virus-induced lockdown.
The argument has not only been rejected by school proprietors but some legal brains who argued that it is baseless given the circumstances.
However, to keep their payrolls running, private institution under the National Private Education Institutions Association (NPEIA) have been courting the government to pay salaries for teachers in private schools for at least a year as part of the stimulus to the education sector which has been greatly hit by the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.