As schools reopen for sub-candidate classes today, many teachers will not return to classrooms due to low salaries and poor working conditions worsened by the one-year closure due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
This comes as semi-candidates are set to return to school today.
Many of the non-returning teachers mainly in private schools, faced with no payment and other challenges of the lockdown, ventured into alternative income generating projects.
However, others in government-aided schools, despite having been receiving their monthly salaries, have also abandoned teaching after discovering better paying enterprises.
In Kabale District, for instance, Mr Moses Muhangi Tweyongyere, a secondary school geography teacher, who was earning Shs300,000 per month in a private school, is not returning to teaching.
He said he has found “gold” in boda-boda transport business and charcoal production.
“When the lockdown was announced and education institutions closed, I used some of my savings to buy trees and, thereafter, hired some men and engaged in charcoal burning,” Mr Tweyongyere said.
He added: “For about four months, I made some profits, which I supplemented with my savings to buy a motorcycle for boda boda business. I ploughed back the profits from boda boda and charcoal burning businesses to buy another motorcycle,” Mr Tweyongyere told Daily Monitor in an interview.
He said he is not ready to go back to teaching even if schools reopen.
Mr Stuart Nimusiima, another teacher at Kisoro Vision Secondary School in Kisoro District, said he is engaged in making chapat and people have supported his business which he said has given him income to sustain his family during the lockdown.
One of the teachers, Mr Brenda Katono, now vending food at KBS Radio Mini Market, says Covid-19 awakened her to alternative income sources.
“When I got my salary, I was not sure if it was going to be the last until the lockdown was lifted. So, I bought 50 kilogrammes of posho (maize) flour, 10kg of beans, a 3-litre jerry can of cooking oil, three saucepans, a charcoal stove and started cooking food,” she said.
She added: “I made a loss on the first and second days because I did not have a strong customer base but after a week, I now get my salary’s worth in just a week. I have been able to buy myself two goats and a bicycle, which I never did for the eight years I had been getting a monthly salary.”
Ms Specioza Kyotungire, who was a primary teacher at Brilliant Star Kafujo (private) in Ntungamo District, said when schools reopen, she will not go back to teach. She said she has ventured into other businesses.
“I opened up a shop in Kabale District during lockdown and I want to be my own boss. Besides, during the lockdown I gave birth and want to first take care of my children for some time, ” Ms Kyotungire said.
However, some teachers in Kalungu District said they are quitting the profession due to the worsening working conditions.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the teachers, especially those in Lwabenge Sub-county, said the area is hard-to-reach and schools lack staff quarters.
“We use the little salary we earn to buy food, pay for our medical bills and remain with almost nothing at the end of the day. I would rather continue with my boda boda business where I am assured of some daily income to fend for my family,” a male teacher in a government-aided school in Lwabenge, said.
Mr Haruna Ssenyondo, the director of Tact Nursery and Primary School in Kyazanga in Lwengo District, said many of his teachers told him they will not report back.
“I have made telephone calls to most of my staff members notifying them of the school reopening dates, but many of them are not ready to come back unless I first pay their salaries for Term One of 2020 and increase their pay, yet many children had not paid fully and I have nowhere to get their salary arrears,” Mr Ssenyondo said.
Ms Enid Tumuhairwe, a teacher at Blue Hope Nursery and Primary School, said she will not resume teaching.
She said she has ventured into juice vending where she earns Shs6,000 as profit daily which gives her Shs180, 000 per month.
According to Mr David Tusubira, the head teacher of Kibanga Primary School in Kalangala Town Council, about three of their 16 teachers are unlikely to resume work upon school reopening.
“The three teachers were teaching upper primary, but were not on government payroll. We are still engaging parents to accept our plan to increase fees so that we can meet the current pressing demands,” Mr Tusubira told Daily Monitor on Monday
Mr Fredrick Kisekka, a head teacher at Bufumira Primary School in Bufumira Sub-county, Kalangala District, said many of their teachers have diverted into rice growing.
“They (teachers) say it is more profitable than teaching,” Mr Kisekka said.
Mr Edgar Balondemu, the teachers’ coordinator at Kiige Primary School in Kamuli District, said many teachers found alternative survival opportunities and efforts to call them back to school for a government salary has become ‘tricky’.
In Fort Portal, Ms Joselyn Karungi, 42, will not go back to teaching because the school did not renew her contract after the closure of schools.
“I was teaching at Rainbow International School (Private) in Kampala and during May last year they called me to the school and told me my contract would not be renewed. I am now at home with my family without a job,” Ms Karungi said.
In Tororo, many teachers mostly in private schools have said they will not return to the classroom.
“I may not return to class because my current job of selling produce is more paying than being in class,” Mr John Opio, a secondary teacher, said.
He added that some of his colleagues have joined boda boda business while others are making bricks.
“A few of them contested for political positions in the recently concluded general elections and luckily won,” he said.
Mr Wilson Okachuga, a teacher who contested for the district chairperson seat but lost, said he will remain pursuing his political ambitions and will not go back to teaching.
“I don’t think I will go back to class because this will kill my political career. The lockdown taught me many lessons,” he said.
In Mbale, Mr Amos Wetaka, a secondary teacher, said he opened a grocery shop during the lockdown and it’s paying him better than teaching.
“When I was teaching, I was getting Shs200,000 per month; but now I get more than that,” he said.
Mr Valance Ayebare, 27, a primary school teacher in Kabale District, says he has been teaching for the past four years in a private school but when the Covid-19 lockdown was announced, he used his personal savings to start a boda boda business.
In Katakwi District, Mr Stephen Akabwai of St Stephens Katakwi, says since the Covid-19 induced lockdown, he struggled to find something to do until he started a silver fish (mukene) business.
“I often sell the fish in Ocorimongin cattle market in Katakwi on wholesale; but overall, the pandemic has taught me to have a fallback position,” he said.
Ms Grace Asio, a teacher at Precious Nursery and Primary School in Soroti Town, said she tried selling secondhand clothes, but the demand was low and ended up consuming the capital.
She said she intends to relocate to the village when rains return because as nursery teachers, they are not certain of when schools will reopen.
Many learners too have abandoned schools because they are engaged in money making projects and find little motivation to return to class.
Ms Fazira Namayinde, a Primary Six pupil at Busoga Primary School in Buwunga Sub-county, but doing a short course in tailoring at Nabukalu Young Mothers in Nabukalu Town Council, said she is no longer interested in returning to school.
“In primary education, you do not get money while studying, but with vocational studies you get money as you continue with education,” she said, adding that she will go back to complete Primary Seven after finishing her two-year tailoring course.
Mr Waiswa Wakibi, a Senior Three student at Nawampandu Seed Secondary School in Namutumba sub-county, too is not going back to school because his guardian died during the lockdown.
He would be preparing to go back to complete Senior Three and go to Senior Four, but lacks tuition fees.
“My parents passed on when I was in Primary Six and unfortunately, my uncle who took over the responsibility of paying my school fees passed on last year,” he said.
However, some teachers say they will return to the classrooms.
Mr Ibrahim Wakinyankali, a teacher at Jinja Progressive Academy, said he will be returning to teach but agonisingly.
Mr Simon Peter Owori, a teacher at Butiki Primary School in Jinja, said he has been doing other businesses but will resume teaching.
“I have a passion for teaching and feel good when pupils study and pass well. Although I have been in other businesses, I cannot give up teaching. It is my profession,” he said.
Ms Agnes Mutungirehe, a primary school teacher in Rubanda District, said she will return to school because government continued paying them salaries during the lockdown although they were not teaching.
Mr Papius Tumuhimbise, a primary school teacher in Kanungu Town Council in Kanungu District, and his counter part Ms Lillian Tusiime, in the same district said they will return to school despite the odds.
“I opened a boutique just before schools were closed. When they closed, I concentrated on my business which has now grown. If I was not on government payroll, I would not have gone back to teaching,” Ms Tusiime said.
Mr Denis Tukundane, a teacher at Crown High School in Kamwenge District, said when he heard of government plan to reopen schools for semi-candidate classes, he started preparations to resume teaching.
“I am very happy to see we are going to teach again; I am now more than ready to teach. I have finalised my schemes of work and lesson plans for my Senior Three class and only waiting for that day when they report at school,” Mr Tukundane said.
Mr Simon Okiru, at Teens Challenge in Malaba, said she will go back to teaching but urged school management to consider improving their welfare.
Nevertheless, in Masaka City, Mr Abubaker Suuna, the head teacher of Universal Kindergarten and Primary School, told Daily Monitor that they have been in contact with all their teachers during the lockdown and many have promised to report back.
Authorities speak out
Mr George Byantuyo, the chairperson of Kamuli Private Schools Directors, urged school administrators to talk to their teachers and assure them things will get better in future.
“Let us engage the teachers, give them hope and assurances, add small tokens to show concern till we regain full enrolment because the future holds better than today, so that they remain hopeful,” he counselled .
Mr Aaron Gwolaba, the Buyende District inspector of schools, said he is mobilising teachers to go back to school.
He said with the Covid-induced vacation, teachers and children have found solace in fishing and sugarcane business.
Mr David Bbaale Mukasa, the Kalungu District education officer, wondered why teachers in public schools, who have continued earning salaries even when they are not teaching, are the ones threatening to quit.
He, however, agreed with the teachers on the issue of lack of staff houses, but insisted plans are underway to build staff houses at every public school in the district.
“Unlike private teachers, government teachers have continued to get their salaries in time during the lockdown period. If they have chosen to quit the profession, that is their decision. There are many others who want to join the government payroll and I am sure they will fill up those positions,” he said.
President Museveni, in March last year closed all education institutions after the coronavirus outbreak.
However, the Ministry of Education released the official timetable for re-opening of schools in a phased manner to manage the learners in the face of Covid-19 as they close the 2020 academic year.
According to the ministry’s schedule, the sub candidate classes of Primary Six, Senior Three and Five report today and will study for 14 weeks, breaking off on May 21.
Primary Four and Five classes will study for eight weeks starting on April 6 after Primary Leaving Examinations and end on June 4 to create space for lower primary pupils in Primary 1, 2, and 3 to come in on June 7.
“Primary 1, 2, and 3 will study for eight weeks which end on July 24,” the ministry’s permanent secretary, Mr Alex Kakooza, said in a statement recently.
Last week, school owners warned that the Covid-19 preventive measures set by the government have proved difficult to implement.
A Daily Monitor survey of some school in Kampala and across the country revealed that a number of schools are unable to implement the Ministry of Health Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), especially the two-metre social distancing in classrooms and dormitories.
Meanwhile- according to President Museveni, the semi-candidate students number 1.7 million who, if added to the 1.3 million candidates who resumed class on January 18, this year, would total 3 million. This means that there will be five times more facilities for them to use.
See related stories on Page 6,10 and 11 in Daily Monitor March 01, 2021
Compiled by Philip Wafula, Tausi Nakato, Sam Caleb Opio, Abubaker Kirunda, Ronald Seebe, Robert Muhereza, Naume Biira, Emmanuel Arineitwe, Alex Ashaba, Leonard Mbishinzimana Paul Ssekandi, Sylvester Ssemugenyi, Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Ambrose Musasizi, Muzafaru Nsubuga, Joseph Omollo, Fred Wambede, Suzan Nanjala & Geoffrey Okot.