Legislators back Arts teachers on pay rise

Members of Parliament during the plenary session at Parliament yesterday. PHOTO | DAVID LUBOWA 

What you need to know:

  • The Members of Parliament were reacting to a statement by Mr Muruli Mukasa, the Minister of Public Service, on enhancement of pay for public servants and the ongoing industrial action by Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu).

Lawmakers yesterday urged the government to consider increasing the salaries of Arts teachers.

The Members of Parliament were reacting to a statement by Mr Muruli Mukasa, the Minister of Public Service, on enhancement of pay for public servants and the ongoing industrial action by Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu).

In the statement, the minister partly highlighted President Museveni’s previous remarks that the government was committed to enhancing salaries of all public servants but in a phased manner beginning with scientists.

 “Clearly not all of us are going to be scientists. I believe the education system should be there to enhance the gifts which our children have,” Mr Jimmy Akena, the Lira City East Division MP, said.

He added: “We need to develop their talents and get their knowledge to a level where they can be competitive in any corner of this world. Some of our students are great athletes. We need to develop those skills. If we expect everybody to be a scientist, we are actually not helping ourselves and creating a disaster.” 

Mr Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungi West County) said the government was mostly prioritising Sciences and leaving behind the Arts.

 “Let no one mislead this Parliament that teachers are teaching because they were sent back under duress,” he said, adding, “There is a wrong perception created by the government that Science teachers are at the level of doctors. That’s wrong. Doctors spend six years in the university [unlike those studying education who usually study for a period of about three years],” Mr Ssewungu said.

Arts teachers called off their strike on Monday following an engagement with President Museveni at Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala. This was three weeks after starting their strike.

The Science teachers had previously gone on strike but called it off after they were promised a salary increment in 2022/2023 Financial Year.

Ms Annet Katusiime Mugisha (Bushenyi District Woman MP), said the role of the Arts teachers should not be ignored.

“Personally, I am a teacher and taught for 20 years and was an Arts teacher. I want to agree with the government that we need scientists in this country but we also need Arts teachers as well because they are also professionals and are highly educated, competent and highly skilled,” Ms Mugisha said.

Many of her colleagues gave similar submissions.

Mr Hillary Kiyaga (Mawokota County North) said: “As an artist, I am seeing this as an attack on the Arts. In schools, we used to have National Cultural days, festivals, but they are no longer there,” Mr Kiyaga said, adding, “Uganda is naturally an artistic nation. Much as we want the innovations, the Arts industry has taken it to the level where it is now. It is unfortunate that before we appreciate it, we want to go to the science advancement which is not bad but we must appreciate that Arts has taken Uganda to the level where it is now.”

Ms Betty Aol Ocan (Woman representative for Gulu City) said the government was causing disharmony to the education sector.

“Let us all motivate all teachers rather than segregate them according to the subjects they are teaching,” Ms Ocan said.

Ms Brenda Nabukenya, the shadow minister for Education who doubles as the Luweero District Woman MP, said the government should support the policy of identifying talent from any discipline including humanities.

In response to the lawmakers arguments, Mr Mukasa said the feedback from the legislators would be used in further negotiations with the Labour unions.

Regarding the previous strike of Unatu on salary disparities, Mr Mukasa said there was no intimidation directed towards the leaders of the union.

“The leaders of the union remained at Kololo [on Monday] with the MPs representing workers and they talked over the matter and out of their own will, they opted to call off the strike. However, we are going to continue with negotiations to make sure that the proper timeline of [salary] enhancement is provided,” he said.

Ms Anita Among, the Speaker of Parliament, said given the magnitude of the issues that had been raised, there was need for a motion to be presented today on the resolutions the House passed on the [previous] Committee of Education pertaining the teacher’s pay.

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