Teachers strike bites on day one of second term

A pupil of Buganda Road Primary School in Kampala takes a nap in a classroom on Monday. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

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Paralysis. Despite government pleading with teachers to return to class, many stayed away from their schools while a handful turned up but did not conduct lessons

Countrywide. Activities in public primary and secondary schools were paralysed during Monday's opening of the second school term as teachers implemented a strike announced by their union.
A meeting called by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda on Monday did not resolve the impasse after the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (Unatu) leadership proposed to bring its district chairpersons together so that he explains to them the government position.
Ms Margaret Rwabushaija, the Unatu chairperson, who stated this, also said: “The other issue was we call off the strike and we said ‘no’. So our industrial action is still on.”
However, the Education ministry spokesperson, Mr Patrick Muyinda, appealed to the teachers to take the explanation by government and return to class.

Public primary schools were the most affected with pupils from Nakasero, Buganda Road, Bat Valley and Old Kampala primary schools waiting in vain for their teachers.
In schools which Daily Monitor visited in Kayunga District, pupils had turned up but there were no teachers to attend to them. Some of the schools include Bishop Brown, Namagabi Umea, Kanjuki Umea, Ssezibwa CoU PS, Kiteredde P/S and Kitimbwa CoU. At Bishop Brown, a Primary Six pupil was teaching some his colleagues while others were playing in the compound.

Teachers in the West Nile region took a varied approach to the strike with some conducting classes while others boycotted the lessons. At Arua Public Primary School, lessons continued normally with more than 100 pupils reporting on the first day of the second term.
However, a teacher from Adumi Secondary School, who declined to be named for fear of reprisal, said: “I cannot waste time on strike because it will be ruining the future of the children who are innocent. Even now, I want to pay fees and go back to teach.”

Low turn up
At Nabuyonga Primary School in Mbale Municipality, the head teacher, Mr Jackson Wangwe, said majority of the teachers failed to turn up. “I am aware of the industrial action and I think it’s the reason for the low turn up of my teachers,” Mr Wangwe said.
A similar situation prevailed at North Road Primary School and Budadiri Boys Primary School in Sironko District.
In Gulu Prison and Gulu Public primary schools, there was also a low turn up with the heads attributing the problem to the strike.
The Education Standards Agency assistant commissioner for northern region, Mr Caxton Okello Otile, warned teachers against deliberately refusing to conduct lessons, saying they will face disciplinary committees.

In other schools like Paipir P/S in Pader Town Council, the teachers turned up but were not conducting classes.
At Main Street Primary School, Jinja Municipality, Mr Charles Opoya, the head teacher, said the situation was normal, but the same teachers insisted said they only came to see how the situation was playing out.
Njeru Town Council Education officer Keith Ssemakula described the situation in Njeru as bad. “When I checked the reporting time of the teachers in the eight out of 13 schools I visited, attendance lists showed at least all teachers had reported but were not conducting lessons,” Mr Ssemakula said.

Despite the mobilisation by both local and civic leaders in Tororo District, teaching did not take place in the schools Daily Monitor visited. The pupils who turned up in large numbers were forced to go back home after their teachers refused to enter the classes.
Mr Vitalis Oswan, the chief administrative officer, told journalists at his office that there were no classes in most schools, especially government-aided primary schools, adding that most teachers only reported to sign in the register and later went back to their private activities.

Time line
In 2011, UNATU rallied teachers countrywide to lay down their tools demanding for a 100 per cent salary rise.
This compelled government to agree on a salary enhancement plan which would cover a three-year period at 15 per cent, 20 per cent and 15 per cent. They were paid the first 15 per cent. However the rest of the salary increase was not implemented according to the agreed time.
In 2013 at the start of the school term, teachers went on strike and only called it off when government agreed to meet their 20 percent pay raise demand.

Reporting by Stephen Kafeero, Albert Tumwine, Joseph Omollo, Denis Edema, John Okot, Daniel Cere, Fred Muzaale, Felix Warom Okello, Scovin Iceta , David Mafabi, Fred Wambedde, Yahudi Kitunzi & Rebecca Kabuya