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August 27, 2013

Uganda Leader to Review Teachers’ Strike Report

by Peter Clottey

Uganda’s government spokesman says a team of Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) and administration officials will present its report about the ongoing teachers strike to President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday.

Ofwono Opondo says the government does not have money in this year’s budget to meet teachers’ demands for increased pay and better living conditions. The government established the joint team two weeks ago to explore ways of finding funds to meet teachers’ demands.

UNATU, which wrote to the Education ministry announcing plans to begin a nationwide strike next month, is demanding at least 20 percent increase in teacher salaries.

At a recent news conference, James Tweheyo, the UNATU general secretary, said the teachers would begin a nationwide strike September 14, a day before the third school term begins.

Included on the team that met Tuesday to find solutions to the union demands were the ministers of finance, public service, education and sports as well as UNATU.

“They have failed to find which area they would reduce money from and add on to the teachers’ salaries. And therefore, [Wednesday] they are going to report to the president that they have failed to find the money to make an increment [increase] this financial year,” said Opondo. “Perhaps their recommendation is that they will consider increasing teachers’ salaries the 20 percent as agreed earlier on next financial year. But, this financial year there is no money.”

The teachers say they will refuse to return to the classrooms until their demands are met.

“Government is appealing to the teachers in the primary schools, secondary schools and the university lecturers at Makerere University that they should go back to the classroom as government explores [ways] in the long term. Next financial year, government may consider to re-prioritize salary increase for the public sector. For this financial year, I am afraid the government does not have that money,” Opondo said.

Makerere University has been closed since striking teachers refused to return to the classroom until they get a 100 percent pay increase. The government initially rejected the demand -- dismissing the teachers’ strike as blackmail.

But government spokesman Opondo says the University Council is working with the administration to find funds to meet the striking teachers’ demands.

“The vice chancellor called saying they will be reporting to the government [Wednesday], perhaps by midday [local time]. Because they have been exploring internal areas there so that when the vice chancellor reports, perhaps he would report what they have been able to find from internally generated revenue so that they can make the addition to the lecturers pay,” said Opondo. “Obviously, it won’t be a 100 percent increase as the lecturers are demanding, it may be less if there is any increment at all.”
Clottey interview with Ofwono Opondo, Uganda government spokesman