Africa

Ugandan educators to mark World Teachers’ Day in misery

Teachers in Uganda despair over not being paid for over a year and bogus policies

Godfrey Olukya   | 04.10.2021
Ugandan educators to mark World Teachers’ Day in misery File Photo

KAMPALA, Uganda

Flavia Nabwire walks through a village with a bucket full of pancakes, knocking on every door to ask residents if they are interested in buying some.

A primary three teacher at a private school in Idudi village in eastern Uganda's Bugiri district told Anadolu Agency that she resorted to making and selling pancakes to feed herself and her children.

"I am a single mother with three children. I teach at a private primary school. Ever since COVID-19 hit the country early last year and schools were closed under a lockdown, I have not been earning a salary. I was last paid in April last year," she said.

Flavia said that she started making pancakes and selling them all over the village to make ends meet. She said that among the embarrassing situations she experiences is being stopped by her students to buy pancakes. She said she sees no sense in this year's World Teachers' Day because she lives in "a sorry state."

But she is not alone in such a dilemma. Thousands of teachers in the county are in a similar situation. Among them are teachers in central Uganda's Lwengo district, where a group of teachers who have long gone without pay have resorted to making bricks.

"We do not have anything to celebrate about on World Teachers' Day. Can you imagine we now make bricks for a living?" their leader, John Kagulire, told Anadolu Agency.

He blamed the government for not coming to their rescue. He said the country's president, Yoweri Museveni, had promised to provide some financial aid to teachers at private schools, but up till now -- a year and a half down the road -- they haven't received anything.

John Wanyama, a headteacher at a government primary school, said unlike their counterparts at private schools, teachers at government schools have continued to receive their salaries throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, but it is far from enough.

"Our salaries are not a big deal. We are underpaid. Can you imagine a teacher earning only 500,000 [Ugandan] shillings [around $142] per month?"

He said that definitely, some teachers will take part in the national ceremony to mark World Teachers' Day, but most of the teachers they will be representing are not living happy lives.

Education Minister Janet Museveni recently said at a function in the capital Kampala that the 20 billion shillings ($5.6 billion) that the government had offered teachers at private schools had already been released, but what remains is how they would share it.

Joseph Sewungu, a former teacher who is now a member of parliament, said that it is unfortunate that many teachers are suffering without being paid, yet the government is simply looking on. He wondered how the money promised to teachers by the president over a year ago has not been given to them yet.

Tony William Muganga, a teacher at a government secondary school, said many teachers in Uganda do not take World Teachers' Day seriously because they are not happy about "unrealistic government policies."

"I am a graduate geography teacher at a government secondary school who earns 700,000 shillings ($198) working with science teachers in government schools are being paid 1,200,000 shillings [$340] per month, yet we spend the same time in training and I even have a bigger workload," he said.

He said recently, the president became obsessed with issues related to science and treats science teachers like "small gods."

"Can you imagine that starting next year, science teachers are to be paid 4 million shillings ($1,132) per month, and we will remain to earn the same? That is a bogus policy," he added.

The secretary-general of the Uganda National Teachers' Union (UNATU), Filbert Baguma, said the ceremony for this year's World Teachers' Day celebrations will take place at the State House and the president will be the chief guest. He said the theme is "Teachers at the Heart of Education Recovery."

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, he said he was not surprised that many teachers are disgruntled.

"Teachers who have not been paid salaries are suffering. They are living a horrible life."

He said teachers have spent a lot of time out of the teaching environment.

"The government should invest more in education than before if we are to recover," he noted.

He said it is "ridiculous" that the government pays a bigger salary to science teachers than arts teachers and even headteachers.

"That will do more harm than good. Paying a higher salary to science teachers than other teachers, headmasters and district education officers creates a situation which is not conducive for a good education environment."

According to a recent teachers' census, Uganda has 202,617 primary school teachers and 58,100 secondary school teachers.

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