By Dan Ayebare
The Uganda Private Teachers’ Union has announced plans to launch a fundraising drive to raise support for members unpaid since March 2020.
The union general secretary Juma Mwamula says they hope to raise funds and relief items to support teachers who work with private schools.
The plan is to reach out to different organisations, bodies and individuals to voluntarily donate within their means, in the interest of the survival of private teachers.
Teachers in several private schools have gone without pay since March when schools were closed due to restrictions announced by President Yoweri Museveni in a bid to curb the spread of Covid 19.
“We appeal to all the stakeholders, especially parents to contribute whatever is possible to the teachers who have been suffering since March. Most of these teachers are stuck at their work stations but no one is coming to their rescue,” Mwamula laments.
A primary school teacher based in Wakiso district revealed that their school director had switched off his phone and not communicated to them about salary since the school closed.
Before the school closed, the thirty-three-year-old teacher says they had always been paid on time. With a family of three to fend for, the teacher wonders how he will provide for them in the long run. Presently, he is manning a small roadside food stall with his wife.
Patrick Kaboyo, the national secretary of the Federation of Non-state Education says school owners are not entirely to blame as all private schools depend on school fees payments.
“Most parents pay in instalments. By the time the term was abruptly stopped, school directors may not have recouped enough to pay salaries for the rest of these months while schools were closed,” says Kaboyo.
However, Kaboyo finds it inexcusable that even some schools with full fees payment before beginning of the term have stopped paying teachers.
Kaboyo requests the government to give financial support to private school owners, to enable them reach out to the teachers.
He suggests that governments should offer tax exemptions to private school establishments to enable them sustain their workers and keep them afloat in general until schools reopen.
Kaboyo also advises that private school teachers should have been listed as ‘vulnerable groups’ but says he is still ‘shocked’ that over the last three months of lockdown, they have been overlooked.
Advice to teachers
Mwamula advises teachers to use their capacity during this lockdown to write books and create study materials, which they can sell, when school resumes.
He says that they can also engage in different community level income generating activities to sustain themselves and their families in the meantime.
Zadock Tumuhimbise, the national chairperson Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU), appeals to teachers to remain calm during ‘this trying’ moment, follow guidelines and understand that the continued closure of schools is in the interest of safety of all Ugandans.