Is salary enhancement for scientists the panacea?

Recently the Cabinet approved the proposed enhancement of pay for scientists in public service including teachers in secondary schools and training institutions. 

According to the proposal as reported in the media, the lowest paid scientist will earn Shs4 million. 

This revelation has, however, generated a lot of debate in the public domain, especially among the teachers and mainly between those in humanities and those of science subjects.

It is obvious the Cabinet proposal-cum decision to enhance pay for scientists followed recent but also repeated comments by the President; that our scientists deserve better pay if we as a country are to match other countries which have made serious strides in general development and self reliance due to their scientific innovations and inventions. 

What is not clear though, are the expectations or direct outcomes of the decision and implementation of the rather inequitable salary enhancement for civil servants. Do we expect more motivated scientists after, and therefore improved performance in their duties or should we expect increased enrollment of students in science subjects and related courses. But what is our problem, is it inadequate scientists or demotivated scientists, or both?

As a student of management studies, I know for sure that enhancement of pay as an aspect of employee motivation has quite a number of flaws and limitations and cannot therefore be relied on to deliver performance. 

In one of the debates on a social media platform ignited by the proposal, someone commented that enhancement of pay for science teachers specifically, will not translate into improved performance in science subjects but only cause an aggrieved lot of arts teachers (and increase pressure on government) and perhaps bring about some personal changes in life styles of the science teachers – they will improve their feeding and drinking routines (not necessarily diet).

The argument that enhancement of pay for scientists will increase enrollment of students into science subjects and related courses is based on the presumption that higher pay will inspire and attract more students to study sciences ,which is quite fallacious because science- related jobs have always comparably been associated with better pay than those related to humanities.

A simple survey on pupils in primary schools and indeed lower secondary about their dream careers will yield “engineering, medicine (surgery, pharmacy or nursing), pilot” et cetera which are all science-related. 

Very few, if any will mention careers related to humanities. This indicates that right from the beginning of one’s education life one wishes to do sciences, not to mention the early efforts and in some cases pressures from parents. 

But somehow along the way they veer off into arts. Is it because of low pay? Is the higher enrollment and better performance in humanities due to arts teachers’ satisfaction with their pay, do they earn more than science teachers?

 Science teachers have been earning the “science teachers’ allowances for some years. Has anyone evaluated whether they met their intended objectives or made any impact?

Whether we seek to increase performance in science subjects, have more motivated scientists or increase enrollment into the study area, the government would first consider investing in research into new and better teaching methods in schools and other education institutions, equip the laboratories with the required apparatus and models, recruit more scientists (many still remain unemployed yet there is need), provide equipment to medics in health facilities, encourage and fund science-related research and innovations et cetera.

Enhancement of pay is good, but we can not rely on it to offer solutions to the problems we are facing including those in the field of science. Its discriminatory implementation with regard to other civil servants in same categories (leaving out arts teachers) will only exacerbate our situation than offer the more needed solutions.

Kambo Hakim, Teacher at Jinja Secondary School