While UNATU suspended the strike to enable negotiations to continue, teachers that laid their chalk down feel betrayed by the union. Many of them intimate that their leaders should have remained steadfast until the government committed to increasing their salaries
Teachers who took part in the nationwide strike are not happy with their Uganda National Teachers Union representatives' decision to go back to class.
The strike which would have entered the third week was called off following a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni and the Minister of Education and Sports, Janet Kataha Museveni yesterday at Kololo Independence Grounds.
The meeting was called by the government to reach an understanding concerning the strike that had left many public primary and secondary schools with no teachers. The meeting was called after several threats from government officials intensified the strike instead of sending the teachers back to classrooms.
The teachers went on strike in protest of the government's decision to increase the salaries of science teachers from 1.2 million shillings to 4 million shillings but not for Arts teachers. The UNATU executive had vowed not to go back to school unless the government increased their salaries.
However, during the meeting, no agreement was reached on salary increments. Now teachers who listened to UNATU and laid down their tools even at the risk of losing their jobs are not happy that their efforts yielded nothing.
In Kampala and Entebbe, teachers who kept away from schools last week showed up at schools but their morale was low. Catherine Onen the headteacher of Kitante Hill School says that while the teachers at the schools remained teaching, UNATU's decision has affected them negatively. "They are teaching but you can tell that their moral is low, they deserve the money that they were looking for," she said.
Similarly, in Entebbe, UNATU representatives at schools say the teachers are unhappy. Archilles Lukyamuzi, a teacher and UNATU representative at Entebbe Changsha Model Primary School says teachers have returned to school but are unhappy and demoralised that the strike did not yield positive results.
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The teacher's sentiments are the same in Northern Uganda. Anthony Can, the UNATU representative in Gulu City and Teacher at Gulu Senior Secondary school says he is surprised that UNATU leaders suspended the strike before another meeting scheduled for July 6 with the Ministry of Public Service could be held.
Can notes that it would have been better if UNATU leaders held onto their position and made decisions after tomorrow’s meeting at the Public Service Ministry along with other Worker’s Union representatives.
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In Teso, teachers say that returning to class without a clear government position on salary increments doesn’t add value to education. Julius Ekanyu, a teacher at Miroi Primary school in Bukedea district says teaching is from the heart and forcing teachers to class may not give the desired results in education.
“We are not happy with the suspension of the industrial action without any commitment from the government," he said. "Government seems to be using force to return teachers to class. This is not what we expected from our leaders.”
Francis Akorikin, the Kapelebyong District Chairperson, equally agrees with the teachers’ observation. He notes that asking teachers to return to class without any commitment from the government is only postponing the problem.
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However, almost all the government-aided schools in Teso have remained closed since the announcement of the suspension of the strike.
In the Karamoja region, teachers intimated that even if they were returning to classrooms, they have lost confidence in the UNATU bosses and also the professions. Mauti Manafa, a teacher at Moroto Army Barracks Primary School says the failure of the government to increase their salaries has left them downtrodden.
"We are going to back to teach but we are not happy. We are not motivated to teach. We are just going back because we were told to go back. Right now the cost of living has increased and it is hard to fit into this economy. We wish the government had considered our request," she said.
The secretary-general of UNATU, Filbert Baguma is however urging teachers not to lose heart. During an interview with URN yesterday, he assured teachers that the strike has not been called off but rather suspended as negations with the government continue.
"This is not the end of the negotiations. We are still negotiating. The strike was not called off but has just been suspended as we continue to negotiate with the government on getting the salaries increased," he said.