Kampala — The Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) has appealed to MPs on the education committee to block this years' budget until funds are found for teachers' 20% salary increment.
Appearing before the committee mid this week to discuss education's ministerial policy statement for the financial year 2013/2014, the UNATU executive led by secretary general, James Tweheyo, said Parliament should take a stand for teachers against all odds since it will be the one to eventually have a final say.
"As distinguished MPs, the teachers believe that your solidarity and support in this cause will make the said increment a reality," Tweheyo told the committee chaired by the Mityana Woman MP, Sylvia Namabidde.
"As it has been in the previous years, this issue has always been put to vote in Parliament but as UNATU, we believe that our children are non-partisan and the issue at hand should not be politicized," he added.
Tweheyo explained that the children's future was at risk because "even if government manages to suppress the teachers' strike, it won't manage to suppress a silent go-slow strike which may partly explain the falling standards."
The executive argued that their demands are realistic and manageable once Government puts education top of its priority sectors, cognizant of the fact that nearly 60% of Uganda's population is 18 years and below, still in school with most studying under the UPE and USE umbrellas.
"Gov't must cut back on wasteful expenditure, plug the gaps that have bred high losses due to 'ghosts' and redirect national resources to the most productive sectors of our economy top of which is education. That way, we'll only grow a sustainable economy and build a strong foundation for the future of Uganda," they stated.
On June 25, they gave the Government a 90-day ultimatum to include their 20% salary increment in this year's budget, lest they hold a countrywide strike.
This followed last year's Government commitment to enhance teachers' pay in a phased manner, starting with a 15% increment in financial year 2012/2013 and 20% in 2013/2014.
Another 15% would come in 2014/2015, thus making it a 50% increment.
They said it was therefore disappointing that the recently released budget totally disregarded the promised increment.
"As teachers, we find this unacceptable and highly disrespectful to our profession. This is clearly a breach of contract between Gov't and the teachers," they noted.
President Yoweri Museveni recently warned teachers against strikes, saying they will divert the state from addressing other pertinent issues.
He, however, said the Government plans to use the additional revenue that will be generated during the next financial year (2014-2015) to "deal with the additional priorities such as the pay for judicial officers, teachers, public servants in the security field and scientists."