TEACHERS under their umbrella body, Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU), have suspended their industrial action, just a day after announcing it
KAMPALA - Teachers under their umbrella body, Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU), have suspended their industrial action, just a day after announcing it, paving way for the first term to open as scheduled on February 2.
In a meeting on Wednesday, the teachers had resolved to lay down their tools over government's failure to remit the shs10b earlier pledged by President Museveni to reinforce the financial clout of teachers' savings groups.
In 2011, Museveni had pledged to give teachers sh25b to be remitted in five instalments of sh5b each over five financials years. However, the teachers argue that since then they haven't accessed a penny of that money, despite government having released it for the last two financial years (totalling to sh10b).
Such was the reason that informed the teachers' decision to strike only for them to suspend it on Thursday and seek dialogue with government.
In a meeting of teachers' representatives from across the country convened at UNATU head offices (Teachers' House) on Bombo Road, they resolved to give the government a 90-day ultimatum within which to remit their money.
Failure to comply with the ultimatum, the teachers said they would resume their industrial action. These demands are carried by a petition the teachers on Thursday submitted to the ministry of education and sports.
Higher Education Minister Dr Chrysostom Muyingo received the petition. "I have received your petition and I promise that as top management, we shall discuss the issues raised in the petition and give you a timely response. I hope that after serious deliberations, we shall come up with a satisfactory answer" Muyingo said.
The submission of the petition to the Education Ministry was the zenith of a three kilometre march from Teachers' House to Education Ministry Headquarters on Jinja Road by about 200 teachers' leaders from districts and municipals in the country.
In the petition, the teachers have equally rejected government's mode of dispensing the money through the Microfinance Support Centre (MSC), a fund manager, on grounds that "the fund manager who is agreeable by teachers is the Union of Teachers' SACCOs (UTS).
UNATU's Gonza Ssensamba (L), James Tweheyo (C) and the body's Mayuge representative (R) leading the procession to the Ministry of Education headquarters on Thursday. (Photo credit: Godiver Asege)
James Tweheyo, the UNATU general secretary told teachers' savings groups not to seek money from MSC until UNATU reaches an agreement with government on the modalities of how the sh25b can be accessed.
Gonza Ssensamba, the vice national chairman of UNATU urged all teachers to report to school at the start of the term, as they await government's response to their demands in the defined time-frame.
Muyingo called for calm among teachers, saying the Education Ministry would convene a top management meeting to discuss their demands.
Muyingo said he would call a press conference after the top management meeting to answer all questions related to the teachers' money.
Teachers' leaders from the East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Zanzibar, in the spirit of comradeship attended the meeting for their Ugandan counterparts, urging them to continue pilling pressure on government until their demands are met.
Kenya's Mudzo Nzili and Wilson Sossion, Zanzibar's Daud Suleiman Daud, Rwanda's Nkotanyi Abdon Faustin, and Burundi's Faustin Harelimanya all told their Ugandan counterparts not to give up on their struggle to get their money.
In a recent interview with New Vision, Education Minister Jessica Alupo explained that the teachers' demands cannot be met because the Attorney General, Peter Nyombi, advised that the money should be managed by a government institution.
She said government will soon begin a countrywide sensitization to dispel the falsehoods surrounding the teachers' SACCO.
Alupo urged all teachers to join teachers' SACCOs across the country, in a bid to benefit from the fund and uplift their standards of living.
For several months now, there has been a row between the Ministry of Education and the teachers union over the modality of dispensing the loans to the teachers.
Workers MP Teopista Ssentongo on Thursday said, "It is a wrong assumption for the government to say that the teachers lack the capacity to manage the sh25b."
(Compiled by Innoncent Anguyo, Paul Kiwuwa, Alex Gahima & Diana Ankunda)
Teachers call off strike