Arts, Science teachers hold parallel functions

Teachers in Kabale District celebrate World Teachers’ Day  on October 5, 2022. PHOTO/ROBERT MUHEREZA

What you need to know:

  • In Kampala, Science teachers organised their own celebrations at a hotel on Bombo Road while Arts teachers held theirs in Kyebando.

The deteriorating relationship between Science and Arts teachers over salary discrepancies reached its peak yesterday after they held parallel celebrations to mark World Teachers’ Day.

Earlier, the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (Unatu), an umbrella association that unites teachers across the country, had announced that official celebrations would be held at the district level. However, two separate functions were held.
In Kampala, Science teachers organised their own celebrations at a hotel on Bombo Road while those of Arts held theirs in Kyebando, a Kampala suburb.

The General Secretary of Uganda Professional Science Teachers’ Union (UPSTU), Mr Aron Mugaiga, said Science teachers no longer subscribe to Unatu since they are now independent and their method of work is completely different from that of their colleagues.
 “What they are doing today is they are exercising their constitutional right as enshrined in the Constitution,” said Mr Mugaiga.

“Article 40 gives them freedom to associate. They are free to join or leave a Union,” he stressed.
UPSTU’s national chairperson Vincent Elong said the World Teachers’ Day targets all teachers.
 “I want to stress that Unatu is not the only Union for teachers. We have a Union for university lecturers, there is another Union in Kayunga celebrating this day, called Uganda Liberal Science Teachers Union,” Mr Elong said.

Ms Zeulia Nabirye, a teacher of Biology and Chemistry at Mbale Secondary School, said: “We used to celebrate this day together. This time, Unatu mobilised its members who are mainly Arts teachers. For us, we broke away from Unatu because it was not representing our interests very well.”
Mr Simon Peter Mbayo, a teacher of Physics and Mathematics at Namanoga Secondary School, Mukono, said: “I was a member of Unatu but I left when we formed our own Union as Scientists. I have a right to choose a labour Union to belong to”.  
Science teachers in 2019 formed their own group and pushed for a salary increment. The government in its 2022 financial year increased their salaries to Shs4m, a salary paid to all scientists who graduate in Public Service.

This has since angered Arts teachers who laid down their tools demanding an increment.
The Secretary General of Unatu, Mr Filbert Baguma, while addressing a teachers’ symposium ahead of the major celebrations in Kampala, said whereas some Science teachers decided to hold parallel celebrations, they represent all teachers.
 “The gates are wide open and they are free to leave. We have Science teachers who are still members of Unatu and nobody is telling them that look, you are Science and therefore go away,” Mr Baguma said.
He added: “It is only those who have decided to go and form a Union that are behaving that way but, nobody is sending away any member”.
During the celebrations, Science teachers asked government to empower all teachers, motivate and remunerate them within a well-resourced, efficient and governed system.
They appealed to the government to expedite the process of enhancing salaries for secondary school head teachers and their deputies who are Scientists, saying they equally conduct lessons since the number of Science teachers is still inadequate.

Mr Patrick Kaboyo, the Technical Advisor of Education Advocacy Network, said teachers’ indifference is fundamentally a national concern that should be addressed.
 “Those that are teaching Arts are not as happy as their counterparts teaching sciences. As long as there is that difference in salaries, there is going to be a latent violence that will explode soon,” he said.

The coalition of private schools teachers association and Unions yesterday reminded the government to deliver the Shs20 million President Museveni promised teachers during Covid-19.
The General Secretary of the Association, Mudi Kangave, asked government to release their money amid challenges such as high costs of living and low pay.

Teachers blamed
Meanwhile, the national chairperson of Unatu, Mr Zadock Tumuhimbise, said since the re-opening of schools in January, violent student strikes have become rampant, especially in the post-primary education institutions.

Some of the schools include Blessed Sacrament, Kimanya Secondary School, St John’s Comprehensive School, St Gonzaga, Kashaka Girls, Kabale Secondary School and Lake Bunyonyi.
The acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Mr Ismail Mulindwa, observed that all strikes that take place in secondary schools have the backing of teachers.
He tasked teachers to nurture learners against violence.