President Yoweri Museveni has disclosed a plan by the Government to raise resources for a 25% salary increment for teachers in the next financial year, a move that would compensate for the missed pay rise that led to a teacher strike recently.
Meeting Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) officials at State House Nakasero on Friday, the president said the Government intends to raise sh450b for the wage bill, of which sh218b would go towards teachers’ salary enhancement, especially those in salary scale U7.
The teachers through their chairperson Margaret Rwabushaija, had earlier presented seven issues that they want the Government to address including operationalising the collective bargaining agreement, effecting payment of allowances for science teachers, mismanagement of the teachers’ pay role, capitation grants to schools and the operationalisation of the scheme of service among others.
The President said apart from salary increment, the other concerns raised by teachers only require implementation, meaning they are agreeable.
He, however, urged the teachers to broaden the discussion to include nation building instead of focusing only on their issues.
He cited the teachers slogan, “Because we are, the Nation is”, which he described as defective. Because it is the country that produces teachers; not vice-versa. He advised them to change to “We are because the country is”.
The UNATO general secretary, James Tweheyo, apologised on behalf of the teachers for the strikes, saying it was not fair for them to go on strike.
“We know it is not fair to go on strike. We did not like it either but sometimes what do we do if we appeal and nothing is done? We want to request you to forgive us. We thank you Mr. President for not giving up even when we angered you,” he said.
The President also acknowledged that there is a network of people in various ministries responsible for the ‘ghosts’ on and the mismanagement of the pay roll. “We think there is a racket in some of these ministries, but we are following that,” he said.
He said although revenue collection has gone up, there are also many things that cannot wait including roads and electricity. These, he said, should be prioritised because they help expand the tax base.
Museveni urged the teachers to be logical in their criticism of him, saying their numbers grew because the number of schools and students increased owing to the Governments’ education policy of Universal Primary and Universal Secondary Education.
He said if he had decided to pay the few teachers better and retain only the old schools, millions of children, including their own, would be out of school.
The President cautioned the teachers against their constant strikes, saying this is a bad example to their students.
“When you go to steal with a baby on your back, the baby also learns to steal. What are you teaching your students? Do not be provoked into abandoning your professional ethics,” he counselled.
He also raised the issue of absenteeism among teachers even when they are paid much better than those in private schools.
The minister of education Maj. Jessica Alupo, was optimistic that with all the consultations and meetings that have been going on, UNATU members will reduce or remove the anxiety created among the public since the 28 days ultimatum they gave will be a climax of national examinations.
The cabinet sub-committee headed by Richard Todwong and UNATO are due to meet again on October 14, to concretise their positions.
The meeting was also attended by the finance state minister, Matia Kasaijja, minister without portfolio Richard Todwong and that of public service Sezi Mbaguta.