Voice of America (Washington, DC)

21 August 2013

Uganda Makerere University to Talk With Striking Teachers

Photo: Joseph Kiggundu
Makerere university reopens after one month strike by staff members over pay (file photo).

Uganda's Makerere University management council plans talks with striking teachers Thursday to discuss the walkout that has forced closure of the school, according to Mohammed Kiggundu Musoke, chairman of the University Staff Association.

"The enhancement that we are looking for is a 100 percent pay raise. We want the staff of the university to tally with the cost of living in the country because the salaries they are being paid is very low," said Musoke.

"The highest paid is at the level of a professor who gets paid Shillings 2.8 million [$1,150.00 monthly]," said Musoke.

He said they should be paid the equivalent of $2,000.00, and that teachers with doctoral degrees now being paid the equivalent of $850 should be paid the equivalent of $1,600.

"So this is what translates into the 100 percent pay rise," Musoke said.

The teachers went on strike to press back up their demand for better living conditions following an impasse between the university and representatives of the lecturers union. But President Yoweri Museveni's government has dismissed the university teachers' strike as blackmail.

Frank Tumwebaze, a minister in the presidential office, was quoted by Uganda's media as saying "if the striking lecturers don't want to go back to lecture rooms, let them go and rear goats," said Tumwebaze.

"Haven't teachers and lecturers salaries in the past been increased? Are they the lowest paid civil servants that they can't afford to wait as government first attends to other universal development stimulants like physical and energy infrastructure?"

Tumwebaze says no amount of arm-twisting will force the government to undermine the 2013/2014 budget. But Musoke denied the teachers are blackmailing the administration.

"The university professors are not arm twisting the government. The demand was not directed at the government; the demand was directed at [University] Council," said Musoke.

"None of the staff has said that government should cut their budget. What we are looking at is the re-organization [of] internally generated funds. So no one should get politicking by giving unfounded rumors that we are arm twisting the government."

The students have petitioned parliament to intervene in the impasse to end the strike and allow them to resume their classes. They demanded that the school be re-opened. Musoke said it's unlikely the legislative body could put pressure on the authorities to re-open the school.

"The students have done the right thing, but as long as the impasse has not been solved at the level of the University Council, it's going to be very hard for this to be done. Nothing can be done without Council coming up with temporary solution in the short run," said Musoke.

Musoke says members of his group are hopeful that the University Council will resolve the impasse by meeting their demands to end the strike.

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