Promote Sciences without killing Arts

Students doing a physics practical. 

What you need to know:

  • The mere fact that teaching has stopped without Arts teachers is an indicator that Arts play a great role in the education system.

Who benefits from the teachers’ industrial actions? Most affected are the innocent learners whose cardinal role is to report to class every day and be taught, something they have quite fulfilled unconditionally. Unknown to them is how this constitutional right to education under Article 34 (2) gets down to them.

The Arts teachers’ industrial strike, which started on June 15,  is stretching into the third week. Government insists they must go back to school as a lasting solution towards their salary enhancement is brokered.

Aggrieved teachers represented by their general secretary, Mr Filbert Baguma, under Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) insist  that their industrial action stands not until their salaries are enhanced in respect to that of the Science teachers.

Government is interpreting this as an obsessive comparison disorder while teachers of Arts consider it as an economic injustice and violation of their rights for equal pay for equal work done.

But what if the striking teachers refuse getting back to class? What will the government do? 
No herdsman has succeeded in forcing a cow to take water at the well or forcing milk out of its udder but persuasion can.

The President on several occasions has castigated Arts subjects as ‘useless’ and that graduates of Arts can hardly solve  the country’s problems save for the scientists. Yet he continues to appoint a majority of ministers with Arts backgrounds to serve in his Cabinet. So why is the government pleading for Arts teachers to go back to class and teach subjects the President considers useless?  This is why mindset change in the humanities is timely.

President Museveni’s preference for Sciences over Arts is self-defeating in all aspects since he neither pays them well nor effectively funds the subject.

The President once told off striking lectures to go and rear goats including those of Science if they felt government salary wasn’t commensurate.

The NRM never included scientists on the 10 point programme upon capturing power yet they believe scientists are critical in the country’s rapid economic transformation.  Does it require this government 36 years in power to realise or remember the importance of Science?

The President must be practical in promoting Sciences by appointing only scientists to Cabinet. He can also relinquish his office to a scientist. Science should also take a lion’s share of the national budget.

In my view, let the government strengthen the Arts because we are already doing well in humanities as a nation. Economic transformation hinges on doing better what you’re already good at while improving on areas of weakness.

I urge the government not to abandon Arts for their crucial role in promoting Science. Will the nation have writers, lawyers, accountants, marketers, bankers, diplomats, administrators, designers, entertainers, political scientists to name but a few if we all do Science? It is evident that Science cannot survive without the Arts.

Therefore, Arts need equal attention just like Sciences. Let the government promote Science without killing Arts for the good of Science, one is rain while the other is sunshine.

Forcing teachers back to class is more detrimental than their current industrial action. Teachers can go back to class but technically refuse to teach.
One Chief Administrative Officer is not in position to monitor all teachers in the district. Besides that, teaching is voluntary even when assigned as a duty.

The poor results Uganda National Examinations Board releases each year is an indicator that teachers could have been on strike long before it was officially announced.Employees tend to give labour equivalent to the returns on the same even under maximum supervision. 
Important to note is that forced labour is criminal, inhuman and unconstitutional under Article 25 of the Constitution adopted in 1995, and amended in 2005. The Employment Act also prohibits all forms of forced labour or bonded labour.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), in the forced labour convention, 1930 (No. 29), forced labour is all work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.
Government shouldn’t, therefore, force teachers to teach against their will but rather solve issues raised. Government should consider keeping schools fully open and operational at all costs to reverse these ugly reports.

The mere fact that teaching has stopped without Arts teachers is an indicator that Arts play a great role in the education system.

Science teachers should join their Arts counterparts to catalyze the process and get a lasting solution instead of calling them back on duty before harmony is restored. Wishing teachers and the government successful negotiations.

John Paul Kamwada, concerned citizen, [email protected]

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