By Sandra Birungi
The teachers’ strike looms as students in school look hopeful for the first day at school to open today.
Teachers last week insisted and said they will not step in class today if their salary has not been increased as promised. However, students reported back to school yesterday as expected although there is uncertainty on whether they are actually going to study or not.
The strike is however affecting public schools in particular. The teachers union, Uganda National Teachers’ Association (UNATU) last week announced that if government failed to find money for the 20 per cent salary increment, teachers will not attend classes today. Education minister Jessica Alupo said she expects the teachers to turn up in class today. “We expect that all teachers will report to their duty stations on Monday. Ministry of Finance has already sent capitation grant to schools to enable them start. In case they insist on their planned strike, I have decided to wait until that time,” Ms. Alupo said.
She insisted that the teachers union had together with a technical committee headed by the Director of Budget, Mr Patrick Ochailap, gone through the 2013/14 budget and found no money to deduct to meet their demand. Teachers however insists that close to Shs243 billion was identified largely from money meant for trips abroad, entertainment, food, newspapers and subscription for periodicals. To meet the teachers demand, the government needs Shs130 billion.
UNATU secretary-general, Mr. James Tweheyo, yesterday said the strike would go on as planned, adding that they had set up a legal team to handle anybody intimidating teachers. “Our position is strong. Nobody should accept to be intimidated. We are within the framework of the law. We welcome district education officers, chief administrative officers (CAOs) and resident district commissioners (RDCs), it is their time now to work,” Mr Tweheyo said, referring to the government directive that CAOs and RDCs ensure schools open and teachers are in class.
He went on to add saying, “Let them go to schools and see the collapsing classrooms, incomplete structures and collapsing latrines. Let them see what they have not been able to see and we ask them to help the stranded children who will end up in school. For then we shall know they have started to work.”
The most affected of this strike will be Primary Seven candidates in public schools whose national examinations are a month away. Appealing to teachers on Saturday, Alupo urged them “not to squander the future of these children (candidates) by ruining the whole academic year even when government is still with them on the table”.
“I am going to Arusha (Tanzania) now for an international inter-ministerial education meeting which I head. Should government now start abandoning that? There are some (trips) which are mandatory. Those which are not were cut down in the last budget,” she said.