Arts teacher protests: The endless industrial actions, what went wrong? – Denis Mugonza Waggumbulizi

It’s nearly two weeks ever since Arts teachers both in primary and secondary public schools went into industrial action demanding a pay rise. #WhisperEyeNews @DenisMugonzaW

This came after the government allocated funds for a pay rise for Science teachers in the FY 2022/2023 hence leaving out Arts teachers.

The Arts teachers say that there is a Collective Bargaining Agreement between UNATU and Government. The Arts teachers call it discrimination especially since they are all teachers, do teach in the same government schools and leave in the same economy where the cost of living is high.

The students are not studying however much they go to school every day. Several teachers have been spotted at different schools relaxing in the compounds while playing cards. The students come to school expecting to study but end up playing in classrooms plus collecting water and firewood for their teachers.

When some Arts teachers were asked why they were not teaching, their response was that Museveni should increase their salary just like he has increased that of Science teachers because they are all teachers. Not long ago, the medics were also seen striking demanding salary increments. The other year it was the public University lecturers striking for the same.

The University workers under the umbrella of the Uganda Public Universities Forum have threatened to strike soon if they do not receive salary increments. The local government workers under the umbrella of Local Government Workers Union have threatened to go into industrial action if their salary is not increased.

The Uganda Medical Workers Association has also threatened to lay down the tools if the government does not recruit their colleagues in the health service. Whenever these teachers go on strike, it’s the child of the taxpayer who loses out on education. Then when the Medics go on strike, the average Ugandan who at the same time is a taxpayer misses out on medical treatment.

In Parliament, you will also here some Legislators demanding salary increments. In the private sector, you will also hear of labour strikes for salary increments. All this explains what has gone on wrong with our country led by the NRM party. The Public Service Commission together with the Equal Opportunities Commission are both in trouble and if nothing serious is done to solve the labour strikes for salary increment, the country is in a disarray!

However, what went wrong? What went wrong in our country is one individual who thinks that is the alpha and omega. He captured all government authorities and decides on what to do or not. All the heads of government agencies and their technical officers lost authority and they do not have power to decide on what should be done.

All public servants now think that it’s this one person to solve their troubles. They ran to him and he promises bread and butter but which is never given to them. Under Human resource management, there is no way one would increase salary of a teacher which is much more than that of the head teacher. Practically, this can’t work out.

How will the headmaster control a teacher whose salary is much higher than his or her? Moreover, when this teacher misbehaves at school, the head teacher has no power to dismiss this teacher apart from the public service commission who is the employer.

The issue of appeasing a certain section of people for individual political benefits ought to stop in this developing country. If a policy is introduced, it should benefit all those that are in that sector. For example, the salary increment policy should have been introduced to favour both Arts and Science teachers but not to favour the Science teachers only.

These teachers all leave in Uganda and they do meet the same economic challenges. So if a certain group of teachers is favoured, this would demoralize the other and at the end of the day, it will be our children to lose out on education. All teachers must get salary increments.

The salary scale may defer depending on their levels of education and experience in the service. By the way, Museveni offered Arts throughout his education and he proudly says that he is the best President ever in Uganda. Won’t he have betrayed and demeaned the Arts teachers who taught him and became the best President that Uganda has ever had?

Whereas it’s good to make salary increments for employees, the state must consider introducing the minimum labour wage. Yes, Museveni is against it because he thinks that this shall discourage his investors to come and do business in Uganda, but he should be informed that we can’t allow investors who think that they will come to Uganda and exploit Ugandans.

Uganda’s Investment policy should be clear for these investors to understand that Ugandans are not slaves in their own country and so they should be paid meaningful salaries depending on the kind of job they do and their educational levels.

The cost of living is getting high each day, and the working conditions should favour all workers and this will make sense of the middle-income status that Museveni talks about. Nevertheless, the minimum labour wage is the solution to this, but other than it we are still experiencing industrial actions and their effect to society plus the economy after all they are constitutionally legitimate.

The Science teachers who have received their pay rise shouldn’t celebrate. They should be fighting with their colleagues. Then the spirit of the government should be one of honest negotiation, and the threats should end such that teachers go back to teach the Ugandan child.