What you need to know:
- The government employs 365,982 teachers and non-teaching staff in the secondary and tertiary education institutions it supports, according to official data. Of these, some 360,190 are in secondary schools, according to Education ministry spokesperson, Mr Denis Mugimba.
Government-aided secondary and tertiary education institutions are racing against time to replace about 5,000 teachers and non-teaching staff nearing retirement, a nationwide validation exercise by the Education Service Commission has revealed.
The validation exercise was conducted between November 2021 and April 2022 in 1,600 different secondary and tertiary institutions across the country and covered 38,787 teachers and support staff. It did not include universities.
According to Prof Samuel Luboga, the chairperson of the Education Service Commission (ESC), the validation established that six out of every 10 teachers (22,457 of those validated) are above 40 years. Of these, 4,940 are above 50 years old and nearing retirement.
“The implication is that those above 50 are nearing retirement and when people retire, you need to replace them with people with the equal calibre and so in order to do that you need to plan because they’re not just there waiting for you,” Prof Luboga said.
“If you have somebody who has worked for 32 years and is very experienced and highly trained when he or she retires, your minimum should be to get somebody with [as] much experience,” he added.
The government employs 365,982 teachers and non-teaching staff in the secondary and tertiary education institutions it supports, according to official data. Of these, some 360,190 are in secondary schools, according to Education ministry spokesperson, Mr Denis Mugimba.
The validation exercise discovered that four out of every 10 school jobs were not filled as required, the ESC said. This gap is believed to have dropped to 3 out of 10 following the filling of 10,000 positions since April 2022.
ESC secretary Asuman Lukwago said the validation exercise was undertaken to establish how many school officials were actually on duty.
“We wanted to capture information on those teachers who had reported back because, before the opening of the schools, everybody was rumouring that teachers had abandoned work, so we wanted them to come back and meet them physically,” he said.
At a retreat of senior Public Service ministry officials earlier this month, Prof Luboga said the impending retirement of teachers speaks to the broader need for plans to replace retiring civil servants in order to avoid disrupting service delivery.
“That should be a universal plan for every public service even to plan to train because people are not born with the abilities and once they are trained, you need to attract them because they may choose not to come to work for you,” he said.
“And when you recruit them, you need to pay them and retain them because they can come, work for a bit, and go because you eventually want work done and work will not be done except by people and it will be well done if the people are educated, motivated and well paid and they are well supported,” he added.
Mr Fagil Mandy, a former commissioner in the Education ministry, who now works as a consultant in the sector, welcomed the verification exercise. He said it should be done more regularly.
“They need to go down at accurate speed and carry out a thorough verification, I am not saying what they carried out was not but it was carried out after a long time of no verification at all,” he said.
“That threat of having more teachers retiring should have been found before because this is a figure of teachers you should be monitoring all the time on the computer,” he said.
Mr Mugimba said there is a process of identifying and planning for the impending retirements of civil servants.
“We inform the Education Service Commission about existing vacancies and the Commission is the one to run the placement advert, but as a ministry even before we alert the ESC to run an advert for the posts to be filled, we get clearance from the Ministry of Public Service, then we get confirmation from the Local Government where that institution is based over the availability of the vacancy,” he said.
The ministry spokesperson added that in schools where additional teachers are required, the line ministry must get clearance from the Finance ministry to confirm that their wage bill is available.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Public Service, Mr Wilson Muruli Mukasa, is optimistic the government has the capacity to deal with this challenge in time.
“The government has never been short of any supply of very many categories of workers, it’s only in the very few like health consultants,” he said.
“There are also arrangements which are in place to draw on their expertise either as consultants or lecturers here and there and so on,’’ Mr Mukasa said.
Teachers speak out
Mr Augustine Mugabo, the chairperson of the Association of Secondary Schools Head Teachers of Uganda (ASSHU), said the major challenge with retirement is the late replacement, which affects schools’ performance.
He, however, believes the government will act very fast to bridge the gap now that the number of those to retire has been made public and in time.
“Now that has been a challenge and we have already addressed it as ASSHU with the minister for Higher Education, Mr John Chrysostom Muyingo, who directed the Commissioner of Secondary [Education] to follow it up, especially head teachers who have retired and we have caretakers,” Mr Augustine said.
“As teachers retire, they should be replaced immediately; we have very many officers who are qualified and any delay leads to a backlog which affects recruitment,” he said.
“They need to put together a team which should begin to think about what will be done if a number of teachers are likely to retire at the same time to avoid a crisis.” Mr Fagil Mandy, an education consultant, said.