Ugandan teachers threaten to lay down tools in a nationwide strike

Fund Manager was for accountability purposes: Minister of Education, Jessica Alupo

Fund Manager was for accountability purposes: Minister of Education, Jessica Alupo

Teachers across Uganda have resolved to resume industrial action over the failure by government to include the 10 percent salary increment in the upcoming budget.

The teachers voted to immediately lay down their tools on Monday 18, May, 2015 at a meeting held at Teacher’s House in the capital Kampala called by the Uganda National Teachers’ Union, an umbrella body of teachers groups in the country.

James Tweheyo, the Secretary General Uganda National Teachers’ Union says the meeting was called after the government team showed no willingness to include the 10 percent increment agreed upon in 2011 in the upcoming budget.

Tweheyo says the Union has instructed teachers to hand over the management of government aided schools to the district and municipal education officers. To avoid incidences in the past where Union members abandoned the strike half way due to threats by government security teams, the teachers’ union has put in place a legal team to handle cases of intimidation.

While a section of teachers had proposed to stage a peaceful demonstration by camping at the Education ministry office in Kampala on Monday, the Union leaders discouraged them and asked that they start by staying away from classrooms.

Education ministry officials have however scoffed at the UNATU declaration and threaten that those who will participate in the strike shall be dismissed.

Patrick Emmanuel Muinda, the Assistant Commissioner in charge of Communication and Information Management at the ministry says what the ministry knows is that the schools will open on Monday. May 18th, 2015.

During the industrial action in 2011, teachers agreed with the government that they would receive a 50 percent salary increment spread over a period of four years. Since then, 40 percent increment has been effected and the last increment is supposed to be made in the 2015/16 financial year.

However, when the Finance Ministry issued the budget call circular to all the ministries, the 10 percent was not included in the circular. In January, teachers issued a 90 day ultimatum to the government that expired on 22th April 2015.

Meanwhile, the Uganda National Teachers Union has formally written to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni withdrawing their interest in the 25 billion Shillings the president has been channeling to the teachers Savings and Credit Co-operative -SACCO.

Tweheyo, told this website that they wrote to the President telling him not to give any more money in the name of teachers SACCO funds on Wednesday, May 6th.

He says all the members and teachers’ SACCOs countrywide have been informed that the Union has sought both internal and external alternative funding to support the teachers’ SACCOs. Tweheyo says teacher SACCOs interested in loans should submit applications to the apex union of the Teachers’ SACCOs for processing.

The decision to reject the money from the President follows a disagreement between the teachers union and the ministry of education on ways through which, the government should channel the money to their account.

While the teachers’ union wants the money sent directly to the teachers SACCO’s account, the ministry procured a fund manager, the Microfinance Support Centre, which the teachers rejected. Now, the union has officially written to the president, telling him that teachers no longer want the funds and should therefore not be associated with the funds anymore.

Education Minister Jessica Alupo said they took the decision after consulting the Solicitor General who advised that government funds cannot be put into private hands where, the institution cannot be held accountable.

In January this year, the teachers issued a 90 day ultimatum to the ministry, demanding that their money be channeled through the Apex SACCO, the UNATU SACCO. However, the ministry remained unmoved. On 22nd last month, the branch executives of UNATU formally sat and withdrew their request for the funds.

While Alupo has accepted the decision and has informed the President about it, Rose Nassali Lukwago, the Permanent Secretary of the Education ministry has rubbished the claim by UNATU.

Nassali says UNATU has no rights and powers to stop teachers from applying for loans provided by the government. She has appealed to teachers to form new SACCOs and apply for the funds.

At the height of the teachers’ industrial action in 2013, the president pledged 25 billion Shillings to support the teachers SACCO.

According to the agreement between the president and the teachers, the money would be released in five installments for five years.

Each year, teachers were expected to receive five billion Shillings. The money would be sent directly to teachers SACCO’s, not through a fund manager, according to the agreement. Since then, the government has released about 10 billion Shillings to the SACCO funds, through the education ministry