Mutesasira has already sent out communication rallying his fellow art teachers to support the move. “Remember government always listens to well organized and prepared groups… our fellow science counterparts are pushing for their salary enchantments in this ever-increasing commodity prices period. But silence is on our side,” his letter reads in part.
The once vibrant Uganda National Teacher’s Union-UNATU is on
the verge of weakening further following a proposal by disgruntled arts and
humanities teachers to break away. Led by Francis Mutesasira, a teacher at
Kapeeke Seed School in Kiboga district, the arts teachers accuse UNATU of
inefficiency and going in bed with the government instead of fighting for their
Mutesasira has already sent out communication rallying his
fellow art teachers to support the move. “Remember government always listens to
well organized and prepared groups… our fellow science counterparts are pushing
for their salary enchantments in this ever-increasing commodity prices period. But
silence is on our side,” his letter reads in part.
The teacher, who accuses UNATU of remaining silent on issues
affecting all teachers, notes that establishing an independent union is the
last resort given the fact that it’s a constitutional right for a worker to
associate in a union of their choice.
The Uganda Constitution of 1995, under Article 40
Section 3(a) provides for the formation of trade unions under which every
worker has a right to form or join a trade union of his or her choice for the
promotion and protection of economic and social interests.
The move comes a year after science teachers broke away from
UNATU and established the Uganda Professional Science Teachers’ Union-UPSTU on
grounds that UNATU was not advocating for their rights. While announcing the
breakaway, science teachers noted that the current leadership at UNATU became
jealous when the government promised to enhance the salaries of science
teachers and refused to follow up on the matter.
Vincent Elong, the national chairperson of the Uganda
Professional Science Teachers’ Union-UPSTU noted that they realized that UNATU
was being overcrowded by primary school teachers who cared less about the challenges
affecting other members.
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Elong noted that they tried to cause reforms from
within but failed since primary school teachers had the highest number of
delegates and could determine the top leadership, which left them no option but
to break away.
He further accused the top leaders of UNATU of turning into a den
of thieves who with the help of the ministry of public service were forcing
teachers to join the union without their consent. Elong claimed that the moment
a teacher is put on the payroll, the UNATU code is illegally put on their
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However, Filbert Baguma, the UNATU Secretary-General
has denied the allegations leveled against the union, noting that they have
always pushed the government to prioritize the teacher’s welfare at all levels.
On the reasons advanced by the science teachers for their decision to start
another union, the secretary-general notes that UNATU has been advocating for
the enhancement of the salaries of all its members since 2012.
said that they also realized that science teachers needed extra attention thus
pushing the government to give extra money over and above what others are
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He adds that since 2018, UNATU has been engaging
the government on the proposed selective salary increment, saying the move is
discriminatory, which science teachers interpreted as blocking their bread yet
the union wanted all teachers to get what is due to them regardless of their
This particular matter also featured in his May
12, 2022 letter to teachers, arguing that all teachers of the same qualification
should be paid relatively similar salaries as suggested by the 2019 National
In the letter, Baguma noted that if the government
failed to work out a grand salary enhancement plan for all categories of
teachers, UNATU would rally the affected teachers to leave schools in the hands
of those who would have benefited from the enhanced salaries.
Baguma notes that even having made their position
clear on fighting for all teachers as a group, salary enhancement for a section
of teachers is becoming a huge problem.
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Several educationists and unionists are blaming
the current split in UNATU and colliding voices among teachers on the
government, which they accuse of deliberately dividing the teacher to weaken
Usher Wilson Owere, the chairman
general of the National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU), says that with three
or more groups opposing each other, the teachers may end up as the ultimate
The unionist says UNATU has been one of the strongest unions in the
country because of the solidarity of its members, which has helped them to win
many things from the government with ease.
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Baguma shares similar sentiments noting that there
are forces trying to divide teachers to lose focus of the big picture and concentrate
on small things.
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In a recent interview, James Tweheyo, the former Secretary-General of UNATU notes that for so long the union had internal problems, which
they could resolve through dialogue. According to Tweheyo, the current leaders
in UNATU need to put their ego aside and seek a solution as a disunited union
is bad and a disservice to the teachers.
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UNATU went through a wave of splitting in 2011
when a group of 400 teachers formed the Uganda Liberal Teachers Union-ULITU.
At that time, the breakaway faction blamed their mother union for lack of
accountability and democratic principles.
The troubled teachers’ union was formed in 1947 by
an Act of Parliament under the leadership of John Kissaka. It was then called
Uganda Teachers Association but later transformed into UNATU in 2002 as a
national teachers’ trade union.