THE fate of thousands of students hangs in balance after primary and secondary school teachers defied a Government directive to report for duty on Monday.
Instead, teachers said they remained steadfast in their cause and would not be coerced.
Third term commences on Monday and many students are expected to report to school over the weekend.
Teopista Mayanja, the Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) secretary general, yesterday maintained that teachers would not report to work if their demand of 100% salary increment was not fulfilled.
"We, teachers, are saying we will not go to the classrooms. The Government is shoving us into classrooms and we are putting our concerns before the public," Mayanja said.
She was speaking at a public dialogue on teachers' welfare at Hotel Africana in Kampala yesterday.
The event, convened by civil society organisations, was intended to seek views of the public on the teachers' welfare demands.
Mayanja accused the negotiation team of misrepresenting teachers' concerns. She also accused education minister Jessica Alupo of presenting false information to Parliament on the status of their negotiations.
"UNATU has not been in agreement with the Government's proposal to postpone the increment of teachers' salaries," she said.
The teachers defiance came as five cabinet ministers yesterday moved a passionate appeal, asking the teachers to return to classes on Monday as the Government strives to address their grievances.
The appeal rang out from minster Jessica Alupo, her colleagues, Dr. John Muyingo (state for higher education), Kamanda Bataringaya (state for primary education), Ssezi Mbaguta (state for public service) and information minister Mary Karooro Okurut.
They were at a joint press conference at the Media Centre.
"We appeal to the teachers to report to school starting Friday (today) and attend staff preparatory meetings ahead of the opening of the third term," Muyingo said.
He added: "This is a crucial term which determines the fate of students."
The Government, he said, was committed to improving the conditions of the teachers.
"Teachers should not block the good culture of negotiations. I appeal to them to return to school," he said.
Bataringaya asked the teachers to bear with the Government and return to school, given that it was only a few months before the Government began implementing a salary review for public servants.
"It is only nine months to the next financial year when the Government will be able to effect sustainable salary increments. Teachers should bear with us," Bataringaya said.
Mbaguta said 100% salary increment was untenable.
"In order to improve the pay wage bill you must be mindful of the affordability and sustainability," she said.
Information minister Karooro Okurut reiterated the Government's position to address the plight of the teachers.
However, their appeal came only moments after Alupo directed that: "If teachers do not appear in schools in seven days without substantive reasons, they will be considered to have absconded from work and the first step is suspension."