By Pascal Kwesiga, Doreen Musingo and Norah Mutesi
The Government has appealed to all teachers to end their countrywide industrial action over the unfulfilled 20% pay rise after it emerged that some of their colleagues have resumed work in some parts of the country.
The Education and Sports minister, Jessica Alupo who earlier warned that government would consider taking “action” on teachers who would have not resumed work after two weeks, yesterday said “I am in a meeting with my fellow ministers at this time and we are discussing the issue of teachers,”
Alupo who was scheduled to meet the leaders of the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) on Tuesday added “We are still engaging the teachers so that they return to school. We are not engaging them on pay rise this financial year because the money is not available,”
The teachers began a countrywide strike at the opening of the third term last week after an inter-ministerial committee set up on orders from President Museveni to try to explore the possibility of cutting funding to some sectors in the budget to fund the teachers’ pay rise failed to find the cash.
The 2013-2014 financial year budget was passed last week after the committee in its report said it failed to find sh136b in the budget.
The government promised to increase teachers’ salaries by 50% instead of 100% that they had demanded in 2011.The increment was supposed to be implemented starting with 15% in 2012, 20% in 2013 and 15% in 2014. Although the teachers received the first 15% increment last year, 20% salary increment was not included in the 2013/2014 budget.
By yesterday, more teachers had reportedly resumed work following intervention by ministers and government officials in their respective areas.
Head teachers in Jinja and Iganga districts resolved to end sit down strike and asked government to “punish” teachers who have failed to resume work. But they warned government against intimidating them by delivering “commanding messages” though its agents.
During a meeting with the lands minister, Daudi Migereko, district Chairman Fredrick Ngobi Gume and the resident district commissioner Richard Gulume at the district council hall yesterday, the school heads noted that the strike had cost the learners a lot.
“I have tried to call for meetings but teachers have refused to resume teaching, “said Stephen Kakaire, the head teacher of Namaganga primary school.
Migereko said “Every leader believes teachers deserve a better pay, as government we are working hard to see that teachers get a better pay,” he added.
Gulume cautioned teachers in the district against following UNATU’s “agenda”
More teachers for candidate classes in some parts of central region have also resumed teaching after their peers in Mukono ended the strike.
Teachers at City View High School and Kololo Secondary school were yesterday found teaching their candidates.
A teacher at City High School called upon fellow teachers to end the strike, saying students who are the receiving end of the industrial action are not to blame for the delay for the government’s broken promise.
‘We are fighting for is a good cause, but we also need to consider these children who are innocently missing classes because of our strike yet exams are a round the corner,’’ he said.
Teachers resumed teaching at Kiswa and Luzira Primary Schools although there was a low turn up of pupils.
More teachers in various parts of the country have reportedly resumed teaching. In Kiryandongo, the teachers reportedly refused to heed to the Bunyoro affairs ministers, Ernest Kiiza to return to work and accused him and his fellow ministers of “paying” themselves huge salaries at the expense of the poorly paid civil servants.
There was a high turn of pupils in schools in Hoima, Kyenjojo and Masindi yesterday following the intervention of ministers, Ernest Kiiza, prof. Ziribaberi Nyira and Aston Kajara who held meetings with teachers and urged them to end strike. But few teachers who reported to schools.
The UNATU general secretary, James Tweheyo warned that the government’s latest decision of holding meetings with teachers could worsen the situation.
“We know all the ministers and government agents who are meeting teachers. It is true some teachers have gone back to school but they are not teaching, I challenge you to go to these schools and find out,” he added.