MBALE - In a bold display of frustration and determination, teachers from government schools in Mbale City took to the streets on Wednesday to protest nonpayment of their December salaries.
One of the teachers attached to Maboni from Mbale Senior Secondary School said there have been attempts to resolve the issue through dialogue without success.
The protest began at Lion’s Children's Park, adjacent to Nkoma Senior Secondary School, where the teachers - number in dozens - gathered before marching towards the council offices, chanting slogans and demanding their overdue salaries.
"We go, we go!" exclaimed one teacher, rallying others to join “we go”.
At the council headquarters, the teachers caused a stir as they flooded the corridors, refusing to disperse until their concerns were addressed.
They accused city officials of ignoring their plight and making empty promises, leaving them without pay for the month of December.
Chants of "salary! salary!" reverberated through the building as the teachers sought attention from the authorities.
The teachers finally gained an audience with Mbale Town Clerk Ambrose Ocheng, and the Resident City Commissioner, Rex Achila, to whom they expressed their frustration.
The teachers told the authorities that they are unable to take their children back to school due as they were left with nothing after their January salaries were automatically chopped off by financial institutions to recover loan instalments for both January and December.
They also raised concerns about irregular loan deductions, non-remittance of deductions to financial institutions, and outstanding salary arrears dating back to 2021.
They voiced their discontent with the mistreatment they've faced for speaking out against these issues, highlighting a punitive culture within the Council.
"When you complain you miss out on the pay for some months as a punishment for raising your voice, we don’t have peace as teachers," a female teacher lamented.
The teachers expressed deep dismay over what they perceived as the irregular conduct of city officials, which they argued contradicted the values instilled in students at school.
"We teach values so that when you go to office you don’t get corrupt, but why must you punish a teacher?" one of the teachers lamented.
Their frustration stemmed from a sense of betrayal, as they believed that the officials' actions were antithetical to the ethical principles they worked hard to impart to their students.
This sentiment reflects the broader concern about the erosion of trust in public institutions and the impact of corruption on society.
Moreover, the teachers voiced suspicion that council officials might be manipulating funds deposited in banks to accrue interest, potentially at the expense of teachers' welfare.
This allegation underscores a lack of transparency and accountability in financial management, further fueling the teachers' discontent.
Addressing these concerns is crucial not only for restoring trust between teachers and city officials but also for upholding the integrity of public institutions and fostering a culture of transparency and accountability.
In response, the town clerk expressed regret over the situation and pledged to ensure the payment of December salaries before the end of the week.
He also promised to investigate the challenges faced by the teachers and address them accordingly.
The Resident City Commissioner emphasized the seriousness of the matter, recognizing it as a potential trigger for further unrest in schools.
The teachers reluctantly accepted the promises made by the officials, hoping for a swift resolution to their grievances.
The protest underscores the importance of timely salary payments and transparent financial management in ensuring the well-being of essential workers like teachers.
It also serves as a reminder of the need for accountability and responsiveness from local authorities in addressing the concerns of their constituents.
Interestingly, every beginning of the academic term, the government stresses the need for teachers to report to class in total disregard of the fact that, like the parents sweating through back-to-school stress, the teachers are themselves parents who should be doing the same for their own.
The irony gets deeper in situation like in Mbale.