Plight of Ugandan Techers while marking International Teachers Day

By HICGI News Agency 05th Oct 2021

Today, Uganda is joining the rest of the world to mark International Teachers Day 2021. Private school teachers are surviving on handouts from sympathetic parents as school proprietors are unable to pay them because of the lockdown. Private schools are majorly dependent on tuition paid by learners to finance their operations. The abrupt closure of the schools in March impacted greatly on the finances of private schools. Godlove Baguma, a teacher in one of the city schools told URN that he was waiting for his salary for March when schools closed. According to Baguma, he hasn’t received his salary to date.

He explains that the school proprietor was expecting to get money from parents on the visitation day the following week. The father of two says that he has been struggling to provide for his family to the extent of calling some parents to come to his rescue.

Baguma says some parents have been sending him between Shillings 10,000 and 50,000 which has kept him going with his family. His story is not different from many other teachers in the private sector interviewed by our reporter.

John Jones Alimpa, a teacher in Lyantonde district says he has also been reaching out to parents for help to make ends meet. “You know it is disgusting. But it is the only option that one can resort to. Some give you and others will not because they are also struggling to live. But still I know that time will reach when they can no-longer send you even Shillings 5000,” said Alimpa.

Alimpa said he had hoped to ride his boda boda but he hardly gets customers as motorcycles are limited to deliveries which doesn’t work well upcountry. Rita Nabukenya, teacher in Wakiso district notes that when schools were closed, she knew that it was doom for people like her who have no side income besides teaching.

“Even during the normal days, we are poorly paid. You wait for the salary for three months. Now at this moment we can’t even have any hope,” she said. Josephine Ndagire, a school proprietor in Masaka district told URN despite feeling sorry for what is happening, they don’t have much to do.

Ndagire says that when the schools were told to close, she shared all the money she had collected and paid teachers half of their March salaries.

However, a number of schools are struggling amidst the challenges to pay their teachers. William Ssembiro, the Director Villa Road Primary School in Masaka says they were able to pay teachers full salaries for month of March and April.

“If the situation doesn’t normalise, we will have to pay them half salaries beginning with May. In the worst case scenario, that is to say if the lockdown goes past September, we may stop paying them. However, we have assured them that they will receive their arrears since they have running contracts,” Ssembiro told Uganda Radio Network.

Juma Mwamura, the General Secretary Uganda Private Teachers Union says they understand the situation of their employers but have asked them to provide them some essential items like food which had been stocked but most of them have turned a deaf ear.

“We understand that they don’t have money but schools stock some items, they should give us some items like the maize flour so that we also survive the lockdown and discuss the issues of payment at a later time,” says Mwamura.

He points out while listing the beneficiaries of Covid-19 Task forces, private school teachers were excluded on the list yet they are also in a vulnerable situation. Mwamura further notes that another big challenge of advocating for private teachers is the fact that most of them don’t have formal appointments with schools.

To make matters worse, there is no up to date statistics for this group of people. Uganda Radio Network has learnt that Uganda National Teacher Union-UNATU has started initiatives at the district level to rescue their counterparts in the private sector.

The UNATU Secretary General, Filbert Baguma notes that since public teachers are still receiving salaries, they are mobilizing themselves to provide food donation and some basic needs to those who might be greatly affected.

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“The initiative has so far been implemented in Bushenyi and Ibanda districts. Other districts have started mobilising but still we call upon the District Task Forces to consider looking at this category of people as vulnerable,” said Baguma.

In the same development, The Federation of Non-State Education Institutions, Patrick Kaboyo, notes that they are engaging the education sector to see whether they can come up with a plan on how teachers in the private sector can survive during the lockdown.

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World Teachers’ Day, also known as International Teachers Day, is an international day held annually on 5 October. Established in 1994, it commemorates the signing of the 1966 UNESCO/ILORecommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, which is a standard-setting instrument that addresses the status and situations of teachers around the world. This recommendation outlines standards relating to education personnel policy, recruitment, and initial training as well as the continuing education of teachers, their employment, and working conditions. World Teachers’ Day aims to focus on “appreciating, assessing and improving the educators of the world” and to provide an opportunity to consider issues related to teachers and teaching.

Celebration

To celebrate World Teachers’ Day, the UNESCO and Education International (EI) mounts a campaign each year to help give the world better understanding of teachers and the role they play in the development of students and society. They partner with the private sector such as media organizations to achieve this purpose. The campaign focus on different themes for every year. For instance, “Empowering Teachers” is the theme for 2017. This was the year World Teachers’ Day commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel, bringing the sometimes-neglected area of teaching personnel at Higher Education institutions into the conversation about the status of teachers.

In 2018, the UNESCO adopted the theme: “The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher.” It commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and serves as a reminder that the right to education cannot be realized without trained and qualified teachers.

The UNESCO cites that everyone can help by celebrating the profession, by generating awareness about teacher issues and by ensuring that teacher respect is part of the natural order of things. Schools and students, for instance, prepare an occasion for teachers during this day. More than 100 countries commemorate World Teachers’ Day and each holds its own celebrations such as the case of India, which has been commemorating Teachers’ Day every 5 September.

As the day usually falls during Australian school holidays, Australian states and territories celebrate on the last Friday of October each year instead. This year , it will be celebrated on Friday 29 October.

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