In her view, to solve the impasse teachers should insist that government either introduce a supplementary budget to raise pay for what has been described as art teachers or distribute the available wage among all teachers for equity purposes as they prepare the promised pay raise.
Teopista Birungi Mayanja, an
advocate for education and founder of the Uganda National Teachers Union
(UNATU), has urged the current union leadership to persist in their fight for
teacher’s salary increase.
announced an indefinite strike a fortnight ago in protest of the government's
decision to raise the pay of certain teachers in violation of past agreements
that guaranteed equality and harmonization of salaries for all teachers.
Ms Mayanja, who is currently a
commissioner on the International Commission on Financing Global Education
Opportunities, observes, that if teachers are to gain anything from the
negotiations that have kicked off, they must draw a red line.
“They should remain firm on what
they are saying. government has over time promised teachers and in the end, there
is nothing to show. This time around, those who will be in the board rooms
should come out with tangible results,” she notes.
Mayanja was at the fulcrum as
teachers staged a strike over the government’s refusal to, among other demands,
raise their salaries from 273,000 to meaningful levels back in 2011. Prior to the said strike, Mayanja who was the union’s secretary-general remarked that it was
disappointing that the administration had only given lip service to the issues
of teachers' low salaries and unfavourable working conditions.
With a unified voice, teachers
under her leadership pressed the government to consider salary raises for
teachers who had worked for years for low pay amid other poor working conditions.
To end the 2011 strike, the
government team led by Amama Mbabazi, the then-prime minister, pledged a
progressive increase over three financial years. That year, the government
committed to meet half of the requests, but it failed to do so in succeeding years,
leading to additional industrial action.
Mayanja notes that the government
has proved that it cannot keep what they promise and therefore this time around
teachers cannot be diverted unless there is something tangible.
In her view, to solve the impasse
teachers should insist that government either introduces a supplementary budget
to raise pay for what has been described as art teachers or distribute the
available wage among all teachers for equity purposes as they prepare for the promised pay raise.
//Cue in; “Review the salary…//
Cue out…back to normal.”//
For the coming financial year, the
education ministry was allocated 95 billion shillings for salary enhancement
distributed to science teachers thus raising their pay by nearly 300 per cent
from 1.2 million shillings to 4 million shillings.
If the available funds are
apportioned equally to all the 169,000 teachers each would get a pay raise of
46,800 shillings. However, science teachers, backed by president Yoweri
Museveni, have already warned that government shouldn’t dare redistribute this
The science teachers have equally
called their arts counterparts to end the strike and wait for their pay raise
turn in the 2023/2024 financial year. Already there are Unconfirmed reports
that even the salary increment to science teachers is being footed by Japan
through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) grant and is premised
on the promotion of science subjects.
However, Mayanja says even without
discussing where the funds are coming from, there is a statutory Collective
Bargain Agreement on which government appended signatures agreeing which needs
to be honoured.She adds that in the
agreement, science teachers had already been prioritized as it was agreed that
they will be receiving 30 per cent up and above their art counterparts.
//Cue in; “Had it not…//
Cue out…hundred times.”//
The educationist views the present
emphasis on science instructors as a strategy to undermine educators. She does,
however, point out that governments have traditionally employed similar
Citing the split that the UNATU experienced in 2011 when 400 teachers founded the Uganda Liberal Teachers Organization, she says: "The split began during our
2011 strike, and new unions were created to weaken our resolve. We continued
together. Our teachers are not naive to mindlessly follow waves."
She predicted that the new
science union would not endure as long since it lacks members.
When asked about threats directed
to teachers, Mayanja responded that teachers shouldn't be alarmed by them since
the administration has used similar tactics in the past whenever teachers launched a strike.
In 2011, the then-prime minister
Amama Mbabazi instructed RDCs, town clerks, municipal mayors, and LCV
chairpersons to monitor schools and report teachers who fail to report to work
within the first seven working days so that government could relieve them of
"This is similar to how it is done today," Mayanja observed. “These are old tricks. But anyway, threats are all that they have been left with after dishonouring
agreements. As a former union leader, I am aware that such threats are no
longer effective. Government should style up.”
Despite requests for
reconsideration, UNATU has decided to keep up its strike for the time being.
They are now engaged in new discussions with the government. They have previously met with Vice
President Rtd Maj Jessica Alupo as part of the fresh negotiations, and they
will soon meet with officials from the Ministry of Public Service.
The teachers’ union now giving
government sleepless nights was formed in 1947 by an Act of Parliament under
the leadership of John Kisaka. It was then called Uganda Teachers Association
but later transformed into UNATU in 2002 as a national teachers’ trade