What you need to know:
- Arts and humanities’ teachers on the other hand, who feel spurned, have also joined their science colleagues in the industrial action.
As science teachers’ strike enters day four, they have vowed not to return to class until the government commits in writing, to increase their salaries, even after it announced a Shs700b intervention.
Arts and humanities’ teachers on the other hand, who feel spurned, have also joined the strike to allegedly send a strong message to the government that the increment should cut across and that all teachers matter.
Mr Aron Mugaiga, the general secretary of the Uganda Professional Science Teachers Union (UPSTU), told this publication in a telephone interview yesterday that they will only call off the strike if the government puts it in writing that their salaries will soon be enhanced.
“The first time they made a verbal commitment that all scientists, including teachers, were to get a pay rise, we discovered later that Shs139 billion meant for us had been diverted to other scientists,” Mr Mugaiga said.
Mr Filbert Baguma, the general secretary of Uganda National Teachers’ Union (Unatu), who backed Mr Mugaiga, said the government should commit itself to increase salaries for teachers and other public servants.
“Directing that teachers should go back and teach is not enough. They should come out clearly to stop the confusion. The teachers’ money was not reflected in the Budget and that is why they went on strike,” he said.
Mr Baguma also suggested that since the public servants, including primary school teachers, are facing economic challenges, they too should be considered.
However, Unatu has distanced itself from the ongoing strike.
“We learnt about the industrial action through the media, formally we are not a party. First of all, the teaching of science does not begin at secondary, we teach science right from primary, but by thinking that they should be treated differently is unfortunate,” Mr Baguma, said.
But the ministry has urged teachers to call off the strike as the government finalises with the process of effecting the presidential directive.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Mr Dennis Mugimba, said the striking science teachers should emulate their colleagues who are not participating in the ongoing strike to enable learners to study science subjects.
“They should follow what their colleagues who have not gone on strike are doing and be patient. It is a commitment that the government promised and they will be paid as promised. The issue of salaries is a matter of the whole government looking into it. We are also waiting for money to come from the Ministry of Public Service, and [that of] Finance,” Mr Mugimba said.
Last year, on August 24, the government announced it would increase scientists’ pay, an undertaking that would push their earnings above Shs4m as arts and primary school teachers wait for subsequent budgets.
The teachers specifically want the Public Service ministry to implement the August 24 presidential directive and Cabinet resolutions of enhancing salaries for all scientists to Shs4m for the newly-appointed degree holders and Shs3m for diploma holders.
Science teachers say they are fewer, difficult to replace and a higher pay would boost their morale and welfare, which when combined, would improve performance in sciences in national examinations.
The strike coincided with the reopening of schools for the second term on Monday, and mainly affected government schools.
But on Tuesday, the minister for ICT and National Guidance, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, said Cabinet had approved Shs735b to enhance salaries for scientists.
Dr Baryomunsi said a Cabinet meeting that was chaired by President Museveni on Monday reaffirmed the pay raise effective July 1.
Since 2015, the government has extended more than 70 percent scholarships to students pursuing science-related fields.
Government argues that promoting scientists would stop brain drain and drive economic growth.
The government pronouncement, however, has since sparked objection, with opponents advising that they should address salary discrepancies in all sectors, including considering an increment for arts teachers, as selective increments would destabilise the education sector.
According to Mr Mugimba, there are 13,000 science teachers in government secondary schools, who are on government payroll.
He, however, said there are those that the ministry posted recently but some local governments take long to put them on the payroll.
He said in January, for example, the ministry recruited and posted 1,000 teachers to various schools in different parts of the country.
According to the National Teachers’ Policy, there are 347,219 teachers employed in public and private schools.
Government directly employs 266,290 teachers. Of these, 184,275 teach in primary schools, 67,168 in secondary schools, 13,870 in tertiary institutions, 750 in Primary Teachers Colleges, 227 in National Teachers Colleges.
On average, 45 percent of Ordinary and Advanced level candidates fail sciences, compared to about 15 percent for arts every academic year.
Teachers speak out
Teachers this publication has spoken to fear that the government might renege on its commitment, and have vowed not to return to class.
Mr Geoffrey Muganyizi, a teacher of Physics and Mathematics at St Edwards Secondary School-Bukumi, said they want the government to put their promise in writing “rather than just announcing it through the media”.
“Since 2018, we have been receiving promises which excite us but with no formal writing which we can refer to,” he said.
The Bunyoro regional coordinator for Uganda Professional Science Teachers Union (UPSTU), Mr Ellioda Nasasira, also expressed fear that the government may backtrack on this verbal pronouncement because of its failure to fulfil its 2018 pledge on the same matter.
Ms Anette Namulira, the UPSTU coordinator for Greater Masaka Sub-region, said they are happy that the teachers have overwhelmingly responded to the industrial action.
“We are in contact with all the members of the union, and they are ready to continue with the industrial action,” she added.
The deputy head teacher of Busia Secondary School, Ms Roseline Wandera, said all her science teachers except those paid by the Board of Governors had not yet reported back.
She also warned that if arts teachers are not considered, they too are likely to lay down their tools.
Mr James Muloni, the head teacher of Old Kampala Secondary School, said some of his science teachers had not reported back, but their colleagues were trying to help out.
However, many government-supported schools didn’t not feel the pinch of the strike because their science teachers did not participate.
Mr Martin Muyingo, the head teacher of Makerere College School in Kampala, said all his science teachers had reported back.
Ms Agatha Nakisekka, the deputy head teacher in-charge of academics at Mengo Secondary School Kampala, also confirmed that none of their science teachers are participating in the strike.
In Busia District, Mr Samson Wanyama, the UPSTU district chairperson, said their members across the 14 government-aided schools in the district will not be returning to class.
“Since Monday, none of our members has stepped in class and we are keeping that stand until something tangible comes out,” he said.
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At Buwembe Secondary School, no science teacher has stepped in class since Monday.
In Mbale City, science teachers under UPSTU, eastern region, have also joined the protest demanding their long-awaited salary increment.
Mr Twahir Musiru, the UPSTU district chairperson, said they are tired of waiting and that they want government to act with urgency.
The head teacher of Nkoma SS in Mbale City, urged teachers to report back to school.
In Tororo District, science teachers have stood in solidarity to demand for salary enhancement.
In many schools, teachers turned up but declined to enter their classrooms to teach, saying “they have run out of patience since”.
However, unlike those on the government payroll, those being paid by parents under the Parents Teachers’ Association, have not joined the strike.
Mr David Sidialo, the head teacher of Manjasi High School, confirmed that his science teachers have joined the strike.
The chairperson of Secondary School Science Teachers Bukedi Chapter, Mr Elino Omachar, said it is only teachers with “decayed morals” who can go to class when others are fighting for a common good.
At Kiira College Butiki in Jinja City, all the science teachers are working as usual, saying laying down tools will affect both parents and students, who are innocent.
Mr Joseph Mwesige, a teacher of Mathematics and Physics at Kahinju SS in Fort Portal City, said since Monday, he has not reported back to school.
Mr Tinka Katukahiirwa, the UPSTU general secretary for Rwenzori Sub-region, said teachers will return to school after their leaders have received a formal communication from the government.
In Moyo District, Mr Edward Okudi, the head teacher of Dufile Seeds Secondary School, told Daily Monitor that most of the teachers had reported for duties.
“We cannot afford to lose time in teaching in the names of strikes yet other schools have covered a lot. It is okay for us to let the government think about our demands. But students’ interest should be looked into,” Mr Okudi said.
In Arua and Nebbi districts, some teachers have continued with the strike but some schools have not joined the strikes citing the time lost during Covid-19 lockdown where students have not been taught.
Mr Christopher Mulekwa, the chairperson of science teachers in Kalangala District, said they will report for duty once their issues are resolved.
However, the Education ministry castigated the teachers for announcing an industrial action at the beginning of the term yet the government continued paying them salaries during the two-year Covid-19-induced lockdown.
Compiled by Jane Nafula, Philip Wafula, Denis Edema, David Awori, Abubaker Kirunda, Scovin Iceta, Alex Ashaba, Alex Tumuhimbise, Fred Wambede, Joseph Omollo, Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Ivan Ssenabulya, Sylvester Ssemugenyi & Malik F. Jjingo