Uganda: Don't Rush to Re-Open Schools, School Owners Tell Government

The leadership of Uganda Private Teachers Union (UPTU) has opposed a recent directive by the Ministry of Education and Sports that owners of private schools should duly pay teachers and support staff despite the fact that the education institutions were closed in March after the declaration of a national lockdown by President Museveni.

In a May 18 circular issued to all directors, proprietors and heads of institutions, the ministry directed them to pay their employees during the lockdown period in accordance with the Employment Act and as per the agreed employment contracts.

Teaching and non-teaching staff in some private educational institutions have reportedly gone two months without receiving their due salaries while others have had their pay cut. Some have had their contracts terminated.

School proprietors and administrators said they have no money to facilitate payrolls due to the impact of the lockdown brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

They said that students who were their sole source of revenue went back home before clearing their outstanding balances.

Mr Alex Kakooza, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education said that since education institutions have gone only two months without operating, the budgets for first term salaries should be adequate to pay the staff for at least three months.

Mr Kakooza reminded them about the ministry's guidelines for staff employment in private schools and institutions, which provides that school management shall pay the full-time staff during both the school term and the holidays.

However, Mr Juma Mwamula, the general secretary of UPTU said on Monday in Mengo, Kampala that the directive was populist not a realistic call.

Mr Mwamula said that since schools were closed on March 20 hardly before midterm, most parents had not cleared school fees balances which is main source of income used to pay salaries and wages.

"The majority of parents in private schools pay in instalments and others even bargain for discounts," he said. "It's government's mandate to educate all children of the country. Therefore, since private schools are just playing a supplementary role in education, government should consider bailing them out in such tough moments."

He said under the current situation the government should contribute 50 percent of teachers' salaries in private schools since the schools are heavily taxed.

He said that this is the time government considered waiving Pay as You Earn for salary earners and declaring tax holidays to private schools.

Mr Mwamula said government should not rush to re-open schools before consulting teachers, school owners and Parents and Teachers Associations, since there is a possibility of a spike in COVID-19 infections under school environments.

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