The general secretary of Uganda’s National Teachers Union (UNATU) says members of the group will begin a nationwide strike Monday to press home their labor demands.
Uganda’s primary and secondary school teachers are demanding a 20 percent [$40] pay increase and better working conditions. A primary teacher in Uganda earns about $120 per month, while a secondary teacher makes about $200.
Union leader James Tweheyo says public school teachers will not return to teaching in the classrooms until their demands are met, despite attempts by government officials to intimidate them.
“The teachers made a resolution that today, Monday, they will not be in school teaching, and we made it very clear to everybody after giving a notice to government of 90 days as required by law,” said Tweheyo. “Government has come out with some statements that schools should be open. Yes schools will open, but we are saying a school without teachers is only a building, and we cannot pretend that things are going on well.”
Tweheyo says the teachers group will resist any attempt by government officials to intimidate or harass the striking teachers.
“We expect some government officials to visit some schools to intimidate some teachers, but the teachers have resolved, and even if teachers are harassed to [go] to schools I am sure without doubt these teachers are not teaching and parents should not be deceived that teachers are teaching. Any teacher who goes to school will actually be pretending,” said Tweheyo.
UNATU representatives recently met with President Yoweri Museveni in the government’s attempt to resolve teachers' demands. Mr. Museveni appointed Jessica Alupo to head a commission of technocrats to find funds in the budget to meet the teachers demands.
Tweheyo says there is a stalemate between the teachers and the commission, after UNATU representatives pointed out areas in the budget where funds could be used to increase teachers pay.
“We pointed out money which was meant for luxuries for ministers like entertainment, foreign trips and they want this money for end of year parties. We told them to make adjustments and reduce the cost of spending [in] those areas to give to the teachers, [but] this team was adamant and that is the point of dispute,” said Tweheyo.
But Tweheyo says the Museveni administration has refused to meet the teachers' demands, despite its repeated appeals to call off the strike. The government has threatened to fire striking teachers.
“Of course we know that government can do anything and we are prepared for a backlash, including an attempt to chase the teachers away from the job,” said Tweheyo. “We have said the government should act because government holds the key, it has the money and tomorrow if it is done, we are ready to settle down to class and teach these children to our best.”
Clottey interview with James Tweheyo, UNATU general secretary