Govt should seek dialogue with striking teachers

Pupils of Buganda Road Primary School peep through the gate in early June after their teachers stayed home in the on-going strike over a 20 per cent salary increment promised by the government. Photo by Rachel Mabala.

What you need to know:

  • Let’s be reminded that the striking teachers are exercising their economic right under Article 40(b) of the Constitution of Uganda.

Government earmarked Shs495b in the 2022/2023 financial year to enhance salaries of science teachers. On average each will get Shs4m monthly in addition to the allowances.

The decision  was arrived at after a successful plea bargain between government and Uganda Professional Science Teachers’ Union, the defector arm of science teachers, that broke away from Uganda National Teachers’ Union.  

These divisions have been engineered by the government and the President for their perpetual belief that Science teachers are more critical in the development and transformation of Uganda.

However, it’s apartheid to pay teachers with the same qualifications unmatched salaries regardless of the subjects or level they teach.

A primary teacher with a degree should be paid equally with one teaching in a secondary school with a degree. The same yardstick should be applied for one with a PhD. This will directly improve the standard of education and management at all levels.

Teachers with the same qualifications earning differently yet working together will break the spirit of team work and togetherness.  There is no school teaching only Arts or Sciences meaning these subjects complement each other to offer holistic education.

Equally, we don’t have separate staff rooms or classrooms for Sciences or Arts. It’s commonplace to find a Kiswahili lesson being conducted in the chemistry lab in schools where structures are minimal.  How is the government prepared to solve the challenges arising from segregation in salary enhancements among teachers?

Government should also consider marriages of teachers where one is a science teacher and the other of arts. How will this category of teachers relate amidst these discrepancies in salaries at home? Government is creating a management crisis in schools and homes.

Subjects such as physical education, hygiene, computer studies and co-curricular activities like swimming, sports, indoor games complement both arts and sciences. Is there a special arrangement to pay teachers of these subjects and on which side of the government’s barometer will they fall? Arts or sciences? How about those teaching children with special needs?

Meanwhile, all science subjects are taught in languages. Chemistry can be taught in English or Lugwere but not in Chemistry. How is the government going to compensate the teachers of languages for their contribution towards the success of these science subjects? The answer is equal pay.

The only difference should be in the allowances science teachers get when they organise experiments, science fairs and workshops. Government is free to use such avenues to channel incentives to Science teachers while maintaining equal pay with Arts teachers.

Arts teachers can also take up other responsibilities like being prep masters, house masters, and masters on duty to get allowances from their respective schools. That way harmony will prevail.  Additionally, the National Curriculum Development Centre, National Council for Higher Education, Uwezo, and UNESCO should advise the government on the relevance of Arts subjects in the science world to avoid these unnecessary stand-offs.

 Also, the government should stop threatening teachers with dismissal because recruiting new teachers would cost it more. New teachers will also ask for better pay.

However, with all these looming strikes in public service one wonders what the workers’ representatives in Parliament are doing. Teachers deserve to have a special representative in Parliament elected by Uganda National Teachers’ Union to keep abreast with the government on teachers’ interests.

Let’s be reminded that the striking teachers are exercising their economic right under Article 40(b) of the Constitution of Uganda for equal payment for equal work without discrimination.   Thus, science teachers should rescind their silence towards their counterparts on this matter and join them to make a stronger teachers’ labour union because they need each other.

Andrea’s Schleicher, the OECD Director for Education and Skills, says:  “The quality of an education system can never exceed the quality of its teachers”.   Let  government always seek dialogue with striking civil servants other than issuing threats.

John Paul  Kamwada, [email protected]

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