Uganda's President Museveni on Wednesday firmly reiterated that there will be no pay rise for teachers of humanities, throwing into disarray a 2018 Collective Bargaining Agreement under which the government pledged uniform salary increase for all teachers.
Delivering his address at the national celebration of World Teachers’ Day at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds in Kampala, Mr Museveni assailed proponents of the accelerated reopening of schools closed over Covid-19 and put teachers on notice not to put him on tenterhooks over money.
The government, he argued, will prioritise higher remuneration for science teachers whom he qualified as those teaching Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and ICT at the level of secondary school and above because they directly contribute to societal advances and improved livelihoods, unlike Arts counterparts.
“This idea we are telling you [is], please, we want to increase the salaries of all the teachers and all the public servants, but if we do not have enough money, what do we do? Why don’t we start with some, some that are most needed and these are the science cadres in different areas,” Mr Museveni said.
He added: “This is our ideology from the bush [when he led the guerrilla war that brought him to power in 1986]; it is not a new position. This resistance you [Arts teachers] are launching against our long-held position is not correct. I would advise you to calm down and stop obstructing our plan because it is well-thought-out.”
The Uganda National Teachers’ Union (Unatu) secretary-general, Mr Filbert Baguma, questioned the logic of the Cabinet’s recent approval of Ush4 million ($1,116.34 ) gross monthly salary for science teachers.
Teachers question decision
“What is the grand plan for the salary enhancement for the other categories of teachers with the same qualifications and in the same salary scale, but specialising in teaching other fields? If this [salary] increment [for only science teachers] is implemented, what happens to the commitment that the government signed with the teachers in the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2018?” he asked.
Mr Baguma, reading from a written memorandum, warned of intra-education sector divisions, dissatisfaction, disharmony and demotivation if the government goes ahead with its discriminatory pay plan and said, if not reversed, the policy risked derailing the reopening of schools planned for next January.
He added: “As a nation, we are counting on teachers to do their best to help the education sector recover from the Covid-19 crisis. The way that the said [salary] increment is paid should motivate as opposed to demotivating and dividing the teaching fraternity… we are raising a red flag, there is a lot of anxiety brewing within the different categories of teachers.”
President Museveni, while partly echoing the teachers’ demands, said: “We want more salary, more salary if you do not, industrial action’, that actually means putting me on tension”.
The Education minister, Museveni's wife Janet, assured the teachers that the government will not forget them and the hamstrings awaiting them as classes resume.
“As a ministry, we do understand the challenges that teachers, our frontline soldiers, are grappling with. We pray and we believe that these challenges are not insurmountable. We cannot forget our colleagues when the times were really dark...we cannot run away either,” she said.
Ms Museveni said they would consider the issues that Mr Baguma raised in the memorandum such as recruitment of more teachers and in-service re-skilling to guarantee a seamless reopening of schools after almost two years.
Mr Baguma tasked the government to improve their remuneration and working conditions, continuously retool them and called for increased financing to the education sector alongside recruitment of more staff and operationalisation of the National Teachers Policy.
Turning his gun on Ugandans clamouring for reopening of schools, citing, among other things, teenage pregnancies and disruption to children’s academic progression, President Museveni said the government has always had a plan and knew well what it was doing.
“[You are talking] education matters, but we had to survive [the pandemic]. This time was for survival and I am very proud that we shielded our people from dying…do not compare death with losing time, losing jobs, losing money that [are] reversible,” he said.