Treat them with respect
A few days ago the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) announced a sit down strike of teachers over the government’s failure to live to its promise and increase their salaries. This implies that when schools officially reopen for the second term on May 27, the union expects teachers to stay home.
The government, through the State Minister for Public Service, David Karubanga, has responded by threatening teachers that they would be punished if they didn’t turn up to teach.
It is well known that teachers are some of the worst paid public servants in Uganda. The lowest paid secondary school teacher for example earns a a net of just about UGX 470,000 while the highest gets a little over UGX 800,000. Recently the government raised the salary of the Principal Judge from UGX10m to UGX17.5m. The salary of the Chief Justice is UGX20m and that of his deputy UGX18m. Members of Parliament earn a salary of more than 20m.
An average boarding secondary school in Kampala charges UGX 700,000 in school fees. Other requirements to keep the child at school for three months will take the figure to way above UGX 1m. Given basic family requirements including food and clothes, plus other dependants, the highest paid secondary school teacher cannot afford to take a child there.
Quite often, when they come out to ask for a little more, government threatens them with punishment. This is akin to a parent threatening to beat up his or her child simply because the child has cried of hunger.
Instead of backing at them, the government should consider sitting and discussing with teachers to find an acceptable way forward for both parties. But most importantly, teachers pay should be raised to earn them a descent living. You can’t pay an MP more than 20m and then a teacher less than UGX 500,000. That disparity is unacceptable.