President Yoweri Museveni has ordered the ministries of public service, finance and education and other stakeholders to immediately hold negotiations with the teachers over their demand for a pay increase.
The President issues the directive during a meeting with over 200 teachers under the Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU).
The meeting came amidst a strike by teachers in government-aided primary and secondary schools across the country.
â€œI appeal to my comrades to call off this strike. This strike means that 9.5 million children are not getting an education,â€ Museveni told the teachers.
A statement issued from State House said teachers would hold another meeting to discuss the Presidentâ€™s presentation and come up with a decision by midday today.
Museveni, however, pointed out that funding to priority areas such as construction of dams for power generation and the road infrastructure must not be affected.
He said he had directed his Principal Private Secretary and the Minister for the Presidency to follow up on what the justice ministry is doing to ensure that the mechanism for negotiation is implemented.
â€œEven before they do that, negotiations must go on. We should start negotiating and put the whole budget on the table,â€ the President added.
â€œYou canâ€™t touch Karuma dam because without dams, this country is going nowhere. You will just kill me. The other battlefield is the roads. If you see where to deduct money without affecting these basics, that would work,â€ he said.
The Uganda National Teachersâ€™ Union, headed by Margaret Rwabushaija presented a memorandum containing their demands.
They asked for 100% salary increment for all teachers, income tax revision and operationalisation of the collective bargain agreement.
The teachers also want payment of allowances to science teachers and those in hard-to-reach areas, and the timely release of capitation grants.
â€œAs we work on that, negotiations must start. My advice is that the salary of teachers can go up depending on the economy and other priority areas,â€ Museveni said.
He outlined the Governmentâ€™s priority areas as defence, education and health.
â€œThe strike is bad for your country. My appeal is for you to go back to work and let the negotiations start, guided by the above principles,â€ Museveni stated.
â€œIt is wrong to put the Government on pressure to forget all the other priorities and think only about the teachers. That would be inconsiderate. Wages affect the whole economy,â€ he added.
Museveni warned that if the budget is over-stretched, it could lead to the collapse of the countryâ€™s economy.
On the demand for a tax waiver, the President said he had been advised that increasing the Pay As You Earn threshold from 130,000 to 260,000, would greatly affect the economy.
â€œIf we raised the threshold, it would wipe out about 20% of the total revenue and destroy the Governmentâ€™s income,â€ he explained.
He noted that the Government could not deal with teachers and leave out health workers.
Museveni, however, agreed that science teachers deserved more money.
He observed that the Government this year had started with science professors and that the science teachers, whose budget amounts to sh40b, would be catered for in the next financial year.
Museveni said teachers in hard-to-reach areas were already being paid extra allowances.
He said teachers in similar areas which were left out, would also be considered.
On the issue of capital grants, the President said reforms were already underway.
The finance ministry officials explained that because some districts were diverting the funds, they had demanded that each school submits their accounts to the ministry directly.
Museveni orders on teachers pay