Vincent Elong, the UPSTU chairperson
Science teachers under the umbrella of Uganda Professional Science Teachers Union (UPSTU) have attacked their counterparts of Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) for allegedly sabotaging their salary enhancement.
The allegations come barely hours after a meeting between UNATU leadership and President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni which resolved that the government should review the proposed pay plan for all teachers regardless of their teaching subjects.
However, science teachers are sceptical that this move might end up taking away what they termed as their “cassava” (salary enhancement) which has been already allocated to them in the coming financial year budget.
Ramathan Katende, the UPSTU central region coordinator claims that when their UNATU counterparts met with the President they told him to reconsider the allocations that have been already made.
“We have heard that UNATU is calling for a review of the payment plan for all teachers. We are foreseeing a situation where what has been allocated to us is recalled and distributed to benefit art teachers. If the government has already allocated us (science Teachers) what is due for, let UNATU negotiate their own pay without dragging us into the discussion,” says Katende.
Quoting the statement which was presented by Filbert Baguma, UNATU secretary-general, Katende noted that it has been proposed that if the government doesn’t have enough money to enhance the salaries of all teachers at the same time they should share the available resources across the board.
“In 2019, under similar circumstances, you shared the little food that you found for your children. Why is it that this time around, you have allowed one child to take all the food and even an extra share and leave others starving?” Katende quoted highlighting that here UNATU meant that the government redistribute the money that had been allocated to science teachers.
While reading the budget for the financial year 2022/2023, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija noted that the government had enhanced salaries for science teachers. The increment saw graduate science and grade V teachers’ pay pushed 4 million shillings and 3 million shillings up from shillings 1.1 million and 796,000 shillings respectively.
However, the move has since raised dust in the education sector with primary teachers and those teaching humanities and arts in post-primary institutions saying the move was inconsiderate thus announcing a sit-down strike in demand for equality and harmonization of salary enhancement among teachers.
Vincent Elong, the UPSTU chairperson, said although UNATU leadership are arguing that they want equity and harmony, they have failed to negotiate with the government during the right time when the budget was still in process and therefore should lie low and wait for the next budget.
Elong noted that the general public should know that science teachers’ salaries are being enhanced under the 2018 government policy which called for the enhancement of salaries for all scientists in civil service. Elong further said that civil servants in other fields have since received this enhancement leaving out those in post-primary education institutions.
Stanely Bamuteze, the UPSTU deputy secretary-general, stressed that the enhancement of science teachers’ salaries should not be blocked or antagonized in any way based on the fact that it has been long overdue.
Bamuteze sounded an appeal to science teachers to attend to learners but he hastened to issue a warning that should the government fail to meet its commitment of giving them what has been allocated, they will also re-suspended their strike. Science teachers stage a week-long strike at the beginning of this year’s second term.
In recent interviews and during their presentation in meeting with the president, UNATU leadership has been arguing that they are not trying to disrupt the grand plan for scientists but only asking for a modification to ensure that there is harmony in the teaching and learning environment for the benefit of the innocent learners.
“How fair is an increment of over 300 for science teachers against nothing for other categories of teachers? These same teachers have been earning a 30 percent scientist allowance above all teachers since 2012…Your excellency, it is clear that in the CBA that we signed, the science teachers were already set to earn more than their colleagues as your desire except that the difference in pay was reasonable and fair,” a Statement presented during the meeting reads in part.
While presenting their case, UNATU also gave the government a proposed salary raise plan for all teachers and other staff. According to said draft, secondary school headteachers should receive 10 million shillings, and primary school headteachers 4.5 million shillings .
UNATU is also pushing the government to pay 4.8 million shillings to graduate science teachers and 4.5 million shillings to those teaching arts and humanities. They are also advocating for a 1.35 million shillings minimum salary for primary school teachers.
With the two groups fighting for what they think is due to them, the ball is now on the government court to see how best the situation is handled. Already, it is reportedly said that the president has directed officials from the public service, finance, and education to study UNATU’s proposed payment plan and ensure that the disparity is corrected.
Meanwhile, at the moment over 120,000 teachers under UNATU are still striking and have already noted that the resumption of teaching and learning is currently contingent on how quickly the review process is completed, whether the outcome is satisfactory, and whether the review process addresses the issue of equitable salary increases for all teachers across the board.