Teachers under the Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) have agreed to suspend the planned teachers strike for one term as government mobilizes funds for their salary enhancement.
UNATU had called for industrial action starting Monday May 27 so as to compel government to enhance teachers salaries to ensure that the least paid teacher earns a monthly wage of Shs 900,000.
This came after government back-tracked on its earlier agreement of enhancing the teachers salaries in a phased manner but only provided Shs 49 billion in the 2019/2020 financial year budget out of the total Shs 251 billion required to enhance teacher pay.
On Sunday evening, President Museveni held a meeting with the UNATU members led by their national chairman, Zadock Tumuhimbise and secretary general, Filbert Baguma. The meeting agreed that teachers suspend their planned strike for one term as government continues mobilizing the required funds.
The meeting was also attended by the First Lady and Education minister Janet Museveni, prime minister Ruhakana Rugunda and state minister for Planning David Bahati. The officials and the teachers agreed to have a follow up meeting at the end of July for government to make communication on the availability of money.
Baguma told Museveni that education and issues concerning teachers needed to be included among priority areas since education is the backbone of development. He argued that teachers make all professions and therefore quality education begins with a well-trained, motivated and supported teacher.
Baguma noted that the cost of living had gone up, saying teachers are struggling to cope with the Shs 469,350 salary that they earn. In response, Museveni insisted that there must be priorities within priorities, adding that without security, good infrastructure and electricity, there is no education to talk about.
The Works and Transport sector tops the next financial year budget with Shs 6.4 trillion followed by the security sector with Shs 3.6 trillion and the education with Shs 3.2 trillion. The energy and mineral development sector has been allocated Shs 2.9 trillion.
“I can tell you if you think you can fund education without funding infrastructure first, you’re mistaken. You’re not going to get results. What will happen is…that is what causes brain drain…you train people, they go away. Why? Because there are no jobs. Why don’t they have jobs? Because there are no factories. Why don’t you have factories? Because you don’t have electricity, you don’t have security, you don’t have transport. So you’re just wasting your time.” Museveni said.
Museveni agreed with the teachers that there is inequality when it comes to salaries with some of the public servants getting much more than others. He cited parliament where legislators fix their own salaries. He also cited Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) where he said he set very high salaries including to former executive director Jennifer Musisi.
Describing this as a structural problem, he promised to push for a ‘One Salary Board’ to fix government salaries. He cited a need for the Constitution to be amended to have the board in place. Museveni appealed to the teachers to suspend their strike for one term to allow government more time find some more money and make a communication at the end of the first term.
Baguma then noted that they are not opposed to the suspension of their strike for a term as long as government will find the money and pay them arrears starting with July 2018.
Museveni said that they are going to look into the system and that whatever money is found is to be added on the Shs 49 billion for teacher’s salaries. With the agreement to suspend the strike, teachers are now expected to attend to pupils starting Monday as the school second term opens.