Arts teachers upset over scientists’ pay

A section of Arts teachers at a meeting with President Museveni in Kampala that was aimed at ending their strike on July 4. PHOTO / PPU

What you need to know:

  • Arts teachers under their umbrella organisation, Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) last month went  on a three-week sit down strike protesting the selective increase. Their efforts did not yield.

Teachers of Arts subjects in secondary schools have described the new salary structure where the remunerations of their science colleagues has been doubled as an “injustice” that could cripple the quality of education. 

Science teachers will now be earning nearly four times more than their Arts counterparts.

Arts teachers under their umbrella organisation, Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) last month went on a three-week sit-down strike protesting the selective increase. Their efforts did not yield.

President Museveni talked the Unatu members back to class, promising they would be considered at a later, but unspecified time.

To class they did return but the release of the new salary structure by the Ministry of Public Service on Wednesday opened old wounds and reignited the debate on the potential consequences of selective salary enhancements.

Mr Filbert Baguma, the Unatu secretary general, told this newspaper yesterday that the disparity has further demotivated the Arts teachers, who have agitated for a pay rise since the signing of the 2018 collective bargaining agreement.

“This is meant to kill education in this country. There is no way an Arts teacher will teach in the same class, same student when the counterpart is earning four times more. The teachers simply will be there but government should know that this is a dead year. Whoever is presiding over this will go on record for having killed education in this country,” he said.

The monthly salary of a secondary school science teacher is up by Shs2.5m to Shs4.2m, while a junior will get Shs2.2m, up from between Shs795,000 and Shs858,000. Their Arts counterparts will continue to earn between Shs1.2m and Shs700,000, respectively.

Mr Baguma said the union leadership is due to meet and consult widely with all stakeholders to determine the next step of action.

“We cannot sit and watch this level of injustice,” he said.

In the meantime, Mr Baguma has asked the members to remain calm as they consider the available options.

Under the new structure, a science teacher will earn Shs4m, double the take home salary of a head teacher (Arts).

Mr Martins Obole, the chairperson of the National Head teachers Association, termed this as a “big blunder” by the government.

“It will have implications in schools and their management. If the head is demotivated, how do you think programmes will run?” Mr Obole wondered.

He believes the government should address the pay disparity, saying the plan to match the salaries in five years is unfair. Mr Wilson Owere, the National Organisation of Trade Unions (Notu) chairman general, told Daily Monitor  that the unions will continue to advocate for those, especially artists, who have not been considered.

“They [government] insisted to pay scientists and that is what they have done. What we want is for government to commit themselves and what we have to do is to continue to fight for others to get the same,” he said.

Members of the Local Governments Workers Union also expressed their displeasure with the new structures.

Mr Hassan Lubayi, the union secretary general, said the government should have distributed the available funds equitably across all designations.

“We are not happy and a strike may be in the making. The disparity creates more agitation. It would have been right for government to hold the enhancement altogether rather than giving one group yet we all operate under the same conditions and are expected to deliver,” he said.

In the camp of science teachers and medical workers, there is a sigh of relief after years of agitation.

“We are grateful for the fulfilment of the pledge. For the last four years, science teachers have been marginalised as lesser scientists but that gap has been closed,” Mr Vincent Elong, the national chairperson of the Uganda Professional Science Teachers Union,  said yesterday.