A teachers umbrella body, Uganda National Teachers Association (Unatu) has distanced itself from the purported industrial action reportedly set to start once the first term opens next week.
Over the weekend, a circulating flyer suggested that Unatu had declared a nationwide strike over low pay. The flyer printed with various Unatu colours also features images of the association’s secretary-general. It claimed “This is to inform the general public that there will be no attendance of teachers in schools nationwide effective February 5, 2024, until the government increases teachers’ salaries,” as widely disseminated on social media.
Commenting on the matter, Filbert Baguma, Unatu general secretary stated that the announcement did not originate from Unatu, urging the general public and teachers to treat the information with the contempt it deserves.
“We want to clarify that the mentioned announcement is not ours. We have not declared anything of that nature, and we are unaware of the origin and motive behind it,” Baguma stated.
He further urged Unatu members to rely on information received through the association’s official internal communication channels or from recognized media houses. He emphasized the importance of obtaining accurate and verified information to avoid any misunderstandings.
Baguma, however, acknowledged that despite the aforementioned clarification, the challenges faced by teachers persist and added that the union is actively working towards ensuring that the promised salary increase materializes through negotiation channels with the government.
He pointed out that while the government had committed to salary increments in various financial years, there is no indication in the current financial year’s budget framework paper that these promises have been implemented for teachers.
It is understood that ongoing negotiations are taking place between the government, facilitated through the ministry of Education, and Unatu regarding the challenges faced by teachers. The leadership of Unatu is anticipated to soon have a meeting with the minister of Education, Janet Kataha Museveni.
Baguma confirmed these ongoing developments and emphasized that Unatu will refrain from making any pronouncements on the matter until the negotiations are concluded.
“Let’s wait and see the outcome of the talks. We will inform our members about the next steps. However, at this moment, no industrial action has been declared,” he added.
Unatu has been advocating for salary increments for teachers for several years, and in 2011, the government committed to implement a three-phased salary rise over three fiscal years. The proposed increments were 15 per cent, 20 per cent, and 15 per cent, respectively. Unatu specifically pushed for payment of Shs 4.8 million Shillings to graduate science teachers and Shs 4.5 million to those teaching arts and humanities.
Additionally, they advocated for a minimum wage of Shs 1.35 million for primary school teachers. In response to the calls for a salary increase in 2021, President Yoweri Museveni directed that science teachers would receive the increment first, and this was implemented in 2022. The pay for science teachers increased by nearly 300 per cent, with graduate and diploma science teachers receiving Shs 4 million and Shs 3 million, respectively.
The decision caused dissatisfaction among other teachers, leading to a nationwide strike in demand for salary enhancement, equity, and harmonization. The strike lasted for two weeks, disrupting learning across the country and causing many students to abandon school.
The strike was eventually called off after Museveni insisted that the government could only afford to increase salaries for science teachers at that time, with a commitment to address the concerns of other teachers as the country secures additional funds.