Uganda’s education system is headed for a total breakdown following a threat by public university lecturers to go on strike over failed promises from government.
The lecturers communicated their impending strike in a June 17, 2022 letter which was sent by their umbrella Forum for Academic Staff of Public Universities in Uganda (FASPU) to all stakeholders concerned with the matter. The addressees include heads of all the ten public universities includinmg Kyambogo, Makerere, MUBS, MUST, Gulu, Busitema, lira, muni, Kabale and Soroti. Meanwhile, copies were also sent to all relevant government bodies such as the ministry of education and parliament, among others.
As per the letter, FASPU acting chairperson, Tom Omute, urged members to prepare to lay down their tools citing empty promises as regards enhancing their salaries.
Omute notes that following nationwide strike by these lecturers in 2019, president Museveni summoned them for a meeting which was held at state house Entebbe on December 14, 2019.
During the interface, the lecturers laid bare their grievances which included receiving very meagre salaries yet they are instrumental to shaping all the other civil servants who walk home with millions of pay.
A considerate Museveni then promised to enhance the complainants’ salaries albeit in a phased and pro rata manner starting with the professors and vice chancellors and their deputies.
However, by the time of reading the FY2020/2021 salary, the lower lecturers had already learnt that the new enhancement method provided for in the budget was to only benefit the higher dons leaving out the lower ranked officers including senior lecturers, lecturers, assistant lecturers and teaching assistants.
As a result, on June 4, 2020, FASPU called its members to go on industrial action in protest against the discriminatory salary enhancement. However, the same would be abandoned in an October 8, 2020 meeting at Kyambogo University, upon consideration of Covid interruptions which had hit the entire country.
On February 6, 2022, however, the lecturers resumed the strike but was called off following a series of meetings with concerned government personnel including the minister for education.
This, however, was pursuant to a May 3, 2022 promise by the minister of finance to provide Shs223bn to go towards enhancing the lecturers’ salaries.
Hot air detected
According to Omute, the lecturers are now bitter that despite the minister’s promise, no such monies were provided in the budget, making it over a year of feeding them on hot air.
It is against this disappointment that Omute put members on alert to simply wait for a signal for industrial action.
“the purpose of this letter is to:….notify you that all academic staff in public universities will resume their industrial action which was suspended on March 29, 2021 if salary enhancement to the agreed target is not addressed in the FY 2022/2023,” Omute’s letter reads in part.
Gov’t stuck over teachers strike
Meanwhile, reports coming from all government corners indicate that there seems to be a serious deadlock between government and striking arts teachers over their ongoing industrial action. Last week the teachers in both government primary and secondary school (arts) laid down their tools protesting against the unfair salary enhancement.
The new pay raise particularly elevated science subject teachers who will get up to shs4.8m per month while their arts counterparts receive peanuts.
Uniting under the Uganda teachers’ trade union (UNATU), the teachers want government to restore parity in the salaries of all teachers before they can resume work. This is according to a position communicated by the trade union’s chairperson Filbert Baguma.
To the teachers’ dismay, however, government seems to have no quick solution to the impasse, with signs now showing that it has resorted to intimidation and blackmail to get the educators back in the classrooms.
Speaking to scribes this week, State Minister for Primary Education, Joyce Moriku Kaducu, termed as “unpatriotic” teachers who are striking. According to her, all teachers are supposed to exercise parental love for their children since teaching is a ‘calling’ which someone must perform without fronting monetary gains at all costs.
On her part, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja revealed that government is going to deploy its spies from the internal security organisation (ISO) to document striking teachers so that they are struck off the payroll for blackmailing government.
However, the ministers’ threats seem not to have threatened the teachers, who are still stuck to their resolve.
Earlier this week, a letter purportedly from UNATU was circulated with claims that the teachers had called off the strike. However, this was quickly rebutted by UNATU boss Baguma who called it a scheme by government functionaries to undermine the ongoing strike. Baguma also accused government of resorting to mafia tactics in trying to cow the teachers. He for instance told his troops that the said letter by Birakwate was a handiwork of government functionaries who planned the move deliberately and even drew up a strategy to see it through.
“If you closely analyze the trend of events, you will realize that every move is calculated. For example, the said letter was circulated by Government agents within a few minutes of us receiving it. The hired social media puppets are being paid to send contradictory messages calling off the Industrial Action and diverting us from the real cause.
I assure you that the industrial action is within the provisions of the law. Our legal teams are already at
work. STAY FIRM and remain at HOME. Industrial Action continues. If we withstand the pressure, we shall get to where we want to go. DO NOT GIVE UP!” a defiant Baguma pumped up his ‘grounded’ troops.
He also reminded the teachers that the purpose of the Industrial Action is to ensure there is fair salary enhancement across board. He regretted that despite the strike dragging on for a week now, there has been no satisfactory feedback from the Government.
“…therefore the only option is to continue with Industrial Action. We cannot give up the struggle without any positive outcome. The intimidation is deliberate and meant to scare you.