Don't Despise Teachers: Because We Are, the Nation Is!

treat geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 200%;”>My name is Molly Lynn Kashesya. I am a primary school teacher. I qualified in 1979 as grade III and in 2000 as grade V.

I worked as a primary school teacher from 1979 to 1983, as an acting head teacher from 1984 to 1990 and as head teacher since 1990. I have served in rural schools ever since and therefore; I’m speaking from many years of experience.

During the early part of my profession, teachers were respected for training and nurturing the young generations as future leaders of Uganda.

Teachers had good houses, wore decent clothes, many owned good vehicles, educated their children well, had access to health facilities and ate well. They served as role models in their communities.

At present, teachers are disrespected, among the least paid and most vulnerable. Promises to teachers are not honoured. For example, salary increments are not implemented, leading to the recent strike.

Teachers requested a 100% salary increase. The government agreed to a 50% increase to be paid in three consecutive financial years: 15% in 2012/2013; 20% in 2013/2014 and 15% in 2014/2015.

The government only paid the first 15% portion, hence the strike referred to above. The government has argued that teachers’ salary increment is not a national priority.

The priority is road construction and rural electrification. The teachers were forced to go back to work or lose their jobs.

Teachers (primary school) are vulnerable because they are paid a low salary of approximately Uganda Shs 270,000 (or 79.41 Euros) per month far below the amount necessary to cover basic needs of education, healthcare, housing, food and clothing for their families.

Teachers have no side income to supplement their meagre salaries, have no allowances, and have no time to set up income generating projects because they teach full time.

The introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 1997 made things worse as far as quality education is concerned.

For example, the policy of automatic promotion from grade one makes some pupils go to the next grade half-baked.

Other challenges include UPE not being sufficiently funded, leading to shortages of scholastic/ instructional materials, text and reference books, recreational facilities and overall infrastructure for students and teachers.

There is no facilitation to inspectors of schools to go to schools for support and mentoring visits.

It has been noted with concern that the main objectives of UPE namely reading, counting and writing have not been met.

This is really sad because the majority of the young Ugandans in UPE schools have limited opportunities to quality for higher education or find a job.

Students of wealthy families who go to private schools are the ones that do well, go to higher education and find jobs easily upon graduation.

To sum up the most challenges facing teachers are:

• They can’t afford fees to send their children to school, institutions and universities for quality education.

• They can’t access salary loans to develop themselves because of low pay or failure to pay back because of terms and conditions subjected to them;

• Teachers are deserting the profession leaving the children at risk of not continuing their studies;

• They can’t afford good housing, good clothing and health care;

• Teachers are in a fix because they have no time to take part time activities to generate extra income;

• They can’t attend official meetings, conferences and seminars where they could get information on what could be done to pull them out of low salary trap;

• They have no spokesperson in part because they are not represented in parliament.

I appeal to fellow teachers and other Ugandans to unite and reject dictatorship and restore freedom.

United We Stand, Determined We Succeed Teachers!!

“Because We Are, The Nation Is”.

Molly Lynn Kashesya

The Hague, The Netherlands

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