Public school teachers across Uganda joined a massive strike action on 16-17 July to protest against the Government’s failure to improve their welfare and status, including a fair and decent salary.
The industrial action proved successful, said Teopista Birungi, EI Executive Board member and General Secretary of the EI affiliate, Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU).
“We have achieved part of our objectives,” she stated. “The purpose of this demonstration was both to communicate our position plus alerting the government about the worsening of teachers’ working conditions. Teachers’ issues are now back on the agenda and the government will have to listen.”
Struggling for a fair increase
During the last few months, education unionists had been struggling to collectively negotiate with Government a system of increasing salaries for educators which will keep pace with increases in the cost of living in Uganda.
Despite their petition for a 100 per cent increase, the Government announced last June that it would offer only a 50 per cent salary increase to teachers. This was to be phased out over at least three years, with an initial 15 per cent this year.
UNATU claimed a 15 per cent salary increase was insignificant in the current context of a 30 per cent inflation rate in Uganda. Educators’ standards of living will not improve, said the union.
Educators have received the support of parents,Non-Governmental Organisations and the whole community in their struggle for decent working conditions.The so-called Citizens’ Action for Quality Public Education, a coalition of civil society organisations, delivered a petition to Uganda’s Parliament on 17 July listing teachers’ demands.
The petition highlighted that quality education for all children – not just teachers’ pay - was also at stake. It also called on the Uganda government and education authorities to look more broadly at the ailing public education system within the country.
EI: Quality teaching by quality professionals
“International research has shown that quality education depends on high quality teaching delivered by qualified professionals,” stated EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen. “Such qualified teachers cannot afford to remain in the profession if their salaries are not sufficient to pay for their living costs, and are decreasing effectively as the cost of living increases.”