Science Teachers’ strike over salary increment continues
By Racheal Nuwahereza
Science teachers in all government-aided secondary schools across the country have laid down their tools protesting the government’s failure to effect salary enhancements as promised in the last financial year.
On 22nd April 2022, the science teachers under their umbrella body Uganda Professional Science Teachers’ Union (UPSTU) announced that they would lay down their tools starting May 9, 2022, demanding a salary increment effective July 2022 when the new budget begins to operate.
Vicent Elong, the UPSTU national chairperson says that in the first budget framework paper, UGX 111b had been earmarked to enhance salaries for secondary science teachers and UGX 27b for scientists in tertiary institutions.
He added that this money has however been reallocated.
Last year, the teachers accused officials in the ministries of Education, Public Service, and Finance of diverting the UGX 111b meant for their salary enhancement in the 2022/23 financial year adding that the budget framework paper does not reflect the item.
Elong says they will not listen to any empty promises but want to see that their money is allocated in the 2022/23 budget.
The sit-down strike is meant to protest the government’s failure to enhance their salaries and improve their working conditions and push the ministries of Education and Public Service to include salary enhancement in the next financial year, whose budget estimates are said to be in the final stages of being approved by parliament.
UPSTU has at least 16 sub-regions countrywide, all of which resolved in their different executive meetings to lay down tools until the ministry of Public Service enhances their salaries.
Ramadhan Katende, the UPSTU coordinator greater Masaka sub-region said that they are not ready to return to class until government responds to their long awaited demand.
He added that they are in touch with the network in the region and unanimously agreed to participate in the sit-down strike to move the ministry of finance to respond to their salary demands.
Geoffrey Ojara Ojiri, the Chairperson UPSTU Acholi sub-region said that their members won’t enter class until they get clear feedback from the government.
The teachers want the ministry of Public Service to implement the presidential directive and Cabinet resolutions of August 24, 2021, of enhancing salaries for all scientists, including science teachers, to UGX 4m for the newly-appointed degree holders and UGX 3m for diploma holders.
Last week, the Minister of Education and Sports Janet Museveni said that she was aware of the teachers’ plight and that government was working towards addressing it.
Gonzaga Ssewungu, the Kalungu East MP, who has been a frontline advocate for teachers’ rights cautioned government against the move of enhancing salaries for science teachers at the expense of their counterparts who teach arts, saying it would cause financial and social disparities in the sector and discourage others.
“What are you trying to show us? Is it that those who teach arts are useless and so unwanted?” he questioned.
The minister however said that the issue of salary increment is not an issue of science teachers only but cuts across. She said something needs to be done to ensure that all the salaries of teachers nationwide are increased.
Despite the outcry of learners, school administrators and the minister of education for science teachers to be patient, UPSTU members remain adamant saying they will not conduct any class until the government fulfills its promise to enhance their salaries as they have done for scientists in other sectors.
The teachers say that government is non-committal on its pledges and that it has continued to divert funds meant to enhance salaries for the science teachers and they refuse to be easily pushed to subsequent financial years, as has always been the case.