What you need to know:
- Last Tuesday, Uganda celebrated World Teachers’ Day, a day set aside to appreciate the services of teachers and their contributions to the world. Teachers are globally acknowledged for their role and in the development of students and society at large. Although the President said he would prioritise teachers of sciences over their arts counterparts, some in the fraternity have urged caution and unity which they believe will help them all achieve what they need.
While delivering his address at the national celebration of World Teachers’ Day at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds in Kampala, President Museveni revealed that the government will prioritise higher remuneration for science teachers whom the President qualified as those teaching Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and ICT at the level of secondary school and above.
Museveni says the teachers of science subjects ought to be paid more because they directly contribute to societal advances and improve livelihoods unlike their arts counterparts.
The President has on numerous occasions pledged to increase the pay of scientists, whom he believes are more vital to the development needs of the country.
‘Let our leaders fight for us’
Richard Katende, a teacher of History and Economics at Lubiri Secondary School, says the cost of training a teacher at the university is the same for both science and arts teachers. Katende says the President’s idea of paying one party a different amount of money from the other is not good since they all go through the same training.
He believes the President’s suggestions are brought about by the fact that teachers have been represented by teachers’ leaders who are not pressing hard and those that do, are always compromised, which makes the promises of the teachers to be left hanging.
“Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) is full of egocentric people who only go there to represent their interests. When the President invites them to talk about teachers’ issues they front giving UNATU money to run their own projects. They have surely not done their best to represent the teachers,” he reveals. With about 140,000 members, UNATU is the largest and oldest teacher union in the country and one of its major tasks is collective bargaining and preserving the attractiveness of the teaching profession.
‘We are one’
Deborah Sijenje, a languages teacher at Kisubi High School, says she has reservations about the President’s constant leaning on sciences whenever he proposes salary enhancements.
Sijenje says the President’s leaning will bring about students shunning humanities, yet there are pivotal vocations in that field too.
“We are soon going to run out of arts teachers because they feel demotivated. It would be good to enhance salaries for both parties as a whole. I do not even buy the idea of an arts teacher getting half of what the science teacher gets because we teach the same number of students, have the same time table allocation and same qualifications,” she says.
She believes that in order for the government to have a balanced treatment of the education system, they should treat the teachers equally by giving them the same with salaries.
‘What about us?’
In his remarks, the President did not categorise subjects such as Economics and Entrepreneurship in either arts or sciences, something Ronald Jagwe, an Economics teacher at Trinity College Nabbingo, says makes them left unaccounted for.
He says the two subjects are like a bridge between sciences and arts since both have combinations with at least one of them.
“Science cannot grow without entrepreneurial growth. When we promote sciences alone, we are creating more labour for export. The arts teachers might as well see this as a demotivation and end up giving up. It will also bring about discouraging students from joining arts subjects at the university, which is not sustainable for the country at the end of the day,” he says.
Jagwe however, agrees that the increment should be done as this will give the arts teachers a basis to bargain for a raise too.
“When the increment is done it gives you the locus to bargain for wage increase. It is not good to oppose the suggested increment because both parties lose out in the long run. Arts and sciences are equally essential although priority can be given to sciences in form of increased allowances due to the risk they go through in the laboratories,” he advises.
Christopher Ntulume, an Agriculture teacher at Uganda Martyrs Secondary School Namugongo, opines that the salary increment is supposed to be on both sides but the science should be a little higher.
He says if there is an increment for science teachers only, there could be some kind of division because all teachers have the same qualifications and are subjected to the same workload.
“Let there be timelines that they can inform teachers on when the increment will always be effected rather than promising every now and then in the same cycle. Let the President also first fulfill what he promised,” he says.
According to Filbert Baguma, the secretary general of Uganda National Teachers’ Union (Unatu), the body is not against the salary increment but they are after the maintaining of a 30 per cent increase for both arts and sciences teachers.
Mr Baguma explains that if the government has revised Shs4m for teachers that hold bachelor’s degrees, science teachers should get 30 per cent over and above their counterparts.
“We all need development but we cannot remove humanities. The President will not realise value for money if he continues with his directives and in the long run, it will be the learners to suffer the consequences,” Baguma says.
He adds that for the President to realise value for money, he should not cause an abnormal imbalance in the public since it will cause a lot of confusion in the school environment as one group will feel they do not matter and will not have any reason to keep working.
Brian Ssenabulya, a biology and chemistry teacher at Buddo Secondary School, suggests that his counterparts in the humanities allow the science teachers to get their pay and later use them as a bargaining chip to the President since this will set the trend for salary increment for all teachers.
Senabulya observes that when the arts teachers oppose those of sciences from getting the increment, they will not have an opportunity to benefit from the future salary adjustments.
“Our economy cannot just raise pay for everyone abruptly. If effected, it will not be easy for the arts teachers at the beginning but they will come to terms with it since it will be for the good of the entire teaching fraternity in the long run. Currently, remuneration stands at Shs1.2m for science teachers and Shs900,000 for the arts, this gap can be closed in a short time, if we accept increments to be done in phases,” he notes.
President Museveni has on several occasions promised salary improvement for teachers.
In December 2017, while presiding over the secondary school head teachers’ retreat at State House in Entebbe, President Museveni promised to increase salaries for all science teachers across the country and those of the arts later.
“Government is with immediate effect going to increase salaries for science teachers. The arts teachers will also have their pay raised later. We do not want to hear that science teachers in Kenya are getting a better pay than those in our country,” he said then.
Senabulya says last year, the government had also suggested that scientists would be getting Shs2 m, something that never came to pass. He says opposition to the president’s suggestion then caused the salaries not to be increased.
According to Jagwe, if teachers come together and do not conflict about the discriminatory pay, perhaps the long promised salary increment can be realised sooner than later.
“If we keep opposing the President’s suggestion, he will keep saying we failed his plans of enhancing teachers’ salaries and it will be us to lose out completely,” he explains.
Ntulume, however, has doubts about the promised pay rise.
“Think about the Shs20b they talked about for the teachers’ Sacco and some money promised for the private teachers, where is all of this? Sometime back, we also saw in the news that we were to receive an increment but this never came through. I am naturally a pessimistic person and I will believe the increment when I see it,” he says.