Teachers Ought to Think Outside the Box and Forget the Politicized Strikes for Salary Increments

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A furious striking teacher
A furious striking teacher

In the olden days, there were ‘shortcut professions’ for people with less than stellar academic achievement at S.4 or P.7 national examinations and those not affluent enough to continue to High School or university. If you were in one of those categories, solace would be found either the in army, the police, or, unfortunately, in teaching. This partially explains why these otherwise noble servants have been the lowest remunerated civil servants era to era.

Over the years, the Ugandan army has taken great strides in self-emancipation, becoming a professional and better force. Many army officers have gone back to school and improved their quality. There have been deliberate institutional and personal efforts to improve the human resource of UPDF allowing the officers and men professional flexibility for export to Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia and other troubled parts where they deliver remarkably well, albeit with some short comings.

This labor export eases on the internal pressure exerted on the force by resource constraints.  When they are taken as expatriates, they are paid some substantial allowances. UPDF has generally waged a holistic struggle to improve their officers. With the introduction of ‘Bona bagagawale’ scheme, the UPDF astutely formed the Wazalendo Sacco which has boosted their incomes. There have been very many other internal initiatives.

On a candid note, the teaching fraternity has maintained a dangerous status quo that allows them very minimal leverage. A defining feature of the teaching profession is that its structure, compensation and entry requirements are a product of another era, in many ways incompatible with modern global labor market for skilled professionals. Unlike the army which is a 24/7, all year job, with many emergency calls, the teachers should have more time for self-development.

Schools officially operate from 8:00 AM to 5:00 Pm Monday to Friday. That is 9 hours a day and 45 hours a week. A teacher has 15 hours a day and 123 hours a week to themselves. Unfortunately, the paradigm has been that teachers get beguiled into complacency when they get to the government pay role.

Now that Uganda has found a niche in education in the East African community market, teachers ought to astutely invest the time resource into self-improvement to make them flexible and exportable to greener pastures.

Improvement also accords them better leverage in their demands. Although many skilled professionals are staffing the nation`s classrooms, growing consensus exists among policy makers and researchers that, on the whole, schools are not attracting or retaining the most able teachers or training them effectively.

No doubt, the yearned for salary increments can help the plight of teachers. But, taking to the street for salary increments, is trying to find a quick fix for a problem that has been inherent and almost permanently etched in the education system for many ages and which needs a revolutionary shift in the mindset.

Rather than seek these fixes which only mitigate the problem, teachers` leaders ought to put in place human capital systems that help determine the quality of the teaching work force and draw strategies to improve the teachers consistently. The teachers should also take advantage of other government initiatives.

A national teachers` Sacco for instance would be a wonderful idea. And now with all the technological advancement, there are many programs on the internet that are for teachers. Teachers must break through the traditional borders that have limited them professionally, academically, geographically and otherwise

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Peter Waiswa, is a writter, analysit and accountant