Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | President Yoweri Museveni has instructed the Ministry of Education and Sports to develop a comprehensive scheme of service for teachers. This scheme will outline the procedures for teacher promotion and compensation. The president’s decision follows a request from Vincent Elong, the chairperson of the Uganda Professional Science Teacher’s Union.
Elong emphasized the potential of this scheme to streamline teacher compensation, incentives, and motivation, ultimately leading to improved service delivery by educators. He highlighted the existing issue where teachers often find themselves stuck in their initial positions within the education sector, regardless of their academic qualifications or experience.
Drawing a parallel with the foreign affairs service, Museveni noted that individuals can start at a lower grade, such as grade six, and gradually progress to grade one. He suggested implementing a similar framework for teachers to facilitate their career advancement.
“This system of grades should be introduced in the teaching service because, in the other civil service, they have grades. You can be an assistant secretary but the one is like a rank, but this one you’re still a teacher, classroom teacher but with different grades. I don’t understand why it was not implemented. What is the issue because now you’re a teacher, the only promotion is to deputy headteacher and then headteacher. No, that is not fair. I can still be a teacher but with different grades,” stated Museveni.
This announcement took place during a gathering of teachers at Kololo ceremonial ground to commemorate World Teachers’ Day, focusing on the theme: “The teachers we need for the education we want: The global imperative to reverse the teachers shortage.”
The scheme of service advocated by teachers is a structured system that provides all educators with the opportunity to advance to higher salary levels based on factors such as their length of service and academic qualifications. Teachers have long sought a more efficient system for career advancement and recognition through a teacher scheme of service that allows the promotion of educators who choose to remain in the classroom.
Currently, there is no clear path for career progression once a teacher assumes a classroom role, even if they enhance their qualifications or gain experience. Typically, promotion only occurs when a teacher transitions to a deputy headteacher or headteacher role, which is not feasible for everyone.
Alex Musaazi, a social studies teacher from Wakiso district, pointed out that the absence of such a mechanism has discouraged many teachers from pursuing further academic qualifications, as they lack the motivation to earn higher degrees.
“When you begin as a grade III teacher, there is no prospect of promotion or salary increase, even if you attain a master’s degree. A more structured promotion system would eliminate the need for the ministry to mandate teachers to obtain mandatory degree qualifications; people would pursue this voluntarily,” explained Musaazi.
Musaazi added that teachers who invested in further education were often frustrated because their salaries were tied to their teaching roles rather than their qualifications. Meanwhile, the president expressed surprise and concern, wondering whether those responsible for addressing the issue had disregarded his advice when it was raised in a meeting with Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) leaders in Bugolobi in 2011.
Margaret Rwabushaija, former UNATU chairperson and currently serving as a Workers’ MP, responded to his statement by explaining that although there was agreement on this matter in the past, the Ministry of Education had repeatedly made promises to address it but had failed to follow through, leaving the issue unresolved.
Records indicate that the scheme of service currently under discussion was initially formulated in 2005 by the Education Service Commission but has been put on hold since then. The government’s efforts to promote primary teachers were initiated in FY 2009/2010 but were subsequently suspended.
In 2011, the then Minister of Education, Jessica Alupo, announced a plan to allocate a budget of Shs 40 billion for this purpose, but unfortunately, no concrete progress was made. Apart from the service scheme, the issue of housing has also emerged prominently this year, with teachers advocating for improved accommodation facilities.
Elong highlighted how this situation negatively impacted the quality and performance of teachers, as many were burdened by rent expenses and faced long commutes to reach their workplaces. He suggested that the government could address this challenge in two ways: firstly, by establishing a special housing grant to assist teachers in constructing better personal houses, or secondly, by constructing staff quarters on school premises throughout the country.
However, Museveni dismissed the idea of building individual houses for teachers, indicating his agreement on the need for housing but emphasizing that such housing should be institutional rather than personal.
“The correct way to address teachers’ housing is through institutionalized housing because if you say we give you money to buy a house for yourself, then what happens to the next teacher? For the next teacher, this housing should be there, institutional housing near the school,” said Museveni.
Janet Kataha Museveni, the Education Minister, also underscored the importance of addressing this critical issue, stating that it is now a top priority. She acknowledged that in the past, there had been a significant focus on constructing classrooms due to the high influx of students into schools.
However, Ms. Museveni added that they have recently made a strategic decision to ensure that every new project includes a component for building staff housing. This initiative began with the UGIFT project, which has been involved in constructing seed schools across the country.
“We have always known that for a long time, there was no teachers’ houses included in the school construction when universal education started with the primary and then secondary. The issue was to quickly put up classrooms and more classrooms and more classrooms that would accommodate the number of learners that were going to school.
But we realized in 2017 when we started this project of UGIFT when we said we must make a decision to start construction of teachers’ houses at all schools starting with that project. And we said from there going forward, whichever projects come to build more schools they will certainly include teachers’ houses at all school campuses,” said Ms. Museveni.
Unlike previous years, demands for a salary increase were less contentious during this Teachers’ Day celebration. The president, in contrast to previous occasions when he had a strong reaction to the demands of arts teachers, this time remained composed.
Museveni also emphasized that he doesn’t underestimate the importance of social scientists, as their contributions are vital alongside scientists. However, he reiterated his earlier message that scientists received raises first because they are fewer in number, and the country urgently requires their expertise to address various pressing issues, even though there are limited funds available for resource development. However, he added that as more funds become available, all teachers will receive salary increases.
This year’s Teachers’ Day celebration appeared to have a smaller attendance compared to previous years. Notably, the influential group of teachers under UNATU was conspicuously absent, whereas, on recent occasions, they had a significant presence, painting the venues with their distinctive orange colors. On this occasion, only a few of their representatives attended.
Despite their smaller numbers, the science teachers seized the opportunity to make a strong impression, singing praises and expressing gratitude to the Ministry of Education and Sports and urging their colleagues in the arts to remain patient while waiting for the promised salary increases, which are expected to be implemented in a phased manner.
During the event, UNICEF recognized and awarded six teacher trainers with laptops for their exceptional contributions to the teaching profession. The president also used the occasion to announce his commitment to inject more funding into the Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (Saccos) of various teachers’