President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has issued an order to increase the salaries of lecturers and technicians working in public higher institutions of learning.
The directive aims to enhance the retention and attraction of highly qualified staff in these areas. The President’s decision came in response to a report by Professor Eli Katunguka, the Chairperson of the National Council for Higher Education, who highlighted the challenge of promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, And Mathematics-STEM disciplines at the university level.
Professor Katunguka, who also serves as the Vice Chancellor of Kyambogo University, noted that despite the considerable investments in infrastructure by the government, public universities have struggled to recruit and retain qualified staff to support engineering and architectural programs.
Professor Katunguka was speaking during an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the National Council for Higher Education at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds.
He emphasized that while the government has invested significantly in these areas, the lack of lecturers and technicians renders these investments ineffective. He further noted that the current salary structure offered by the government pales in comparison to what the private sector offers, leading to the departure of experienced staff from these critical fields.
As a solution to this issue, the President directed that the affected staff be immediately remunerated with salaries matching those offered in the public sector. He emphasized that, in his view, even if critical staff are paid more generously than Vice Chancellors or high-ranking administrative positions such as permanent secretaries, this is not a concern.
Recently, the Ministry of Education implemented salary increases for university staff.
Notably, even within the existing salary structures, teaching staff of STEM receive slightly higher pay compared to their counterparts in arts and humanities.
With the new directive from the President, the specific salary increases for STEM professors, lecturers, and technicians remain uncertain at this time. However, Professor Katunguka has indicated that public institutions of higher learning will conduct research to determine the remuneration levels of targeted staff and provide advice to the government.
He pointed out that, according to readily available information some of the targeted staff currently offered 8 to 11 million shillings as senior lecturers and professors, can earn the same amount in a matter of days in the private sector.
Museveni, in justifying the salary increase, cited Soroti Flying School, a case he has frequently referenced to emphasize the critical importance of competitive compensation for scientists.
He recounted how the school was grappling with the loss of trainers who were lured away by the prospect of earning 25 million shillings in the private sector. To address this issue, he took decisive action by ordering that the trainers be paid salaries on par with what they could earn in the private sector. For the past decade, Museveni has strongly prioritized STEM, leading to significant investments in this sector.
He recently increased salaries for scientists, a move criticized for its perceived inequity.
The most recent salary dispute unfolded in schools when science teachers received a substantial 300 percent raise. Despite criticism, Museveni has remained steadfast in his stance, asserting that the government cannot simultaneously address all salary disparities among public servants.
Just last week, as teachers gathered to observe World Teachers Day, he advised arts teachers expressing discontent to be patient and not pressure him for immediate salary enhancements. Museveni reiterated that his “guerrilla” approach of addressing issues one at a time would ultimately benefit sectors dependent on scientists, such as road construction, research institutions, and the medical field.
He further expressed his understanding of the necessity to establish clear and equitable salary structures for both scientists and individuals in the humanities. However, given the current constraints of available resources, his priority is to adequately compensate the much-needed scientists in order to retain and attract talent in vital STEM fields.
Meanwhile, concerning higher education in the country, the President instructed the National Council for Higher Education to ensure that the curriculum and content taught at institutions focus on fostering the advancement of the nation and its society. The emphasis is on education that equips individuals to address and resolve the prevailing challenges and issues faced by the country and its communities.
Janet Kataha Museveni, Minister of Education and Sports, also echoed the same sentiments, emphasizing that the higher education system should be in sync with the society it operates within. This involves accurately diagnosing the societal problems and their underlying causes before prescribing effective remedies and interventions. She argued that this alignment is crucial for higher education to serve as a catalyst for socioeconomic transformation.
Furthermore, she issued a challenge to the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to address the quality of higher education, particularly in science and technology programs.
She underscored the importance of ensuring that the programs and courses offered in both public and private higher education institutions maintain a consistent level of quality. The goal is to have all programs and qualifications recognized as excellent.
However, Professor Mary Okwakol, the Executive Director of NCHE, acknowledged the council’s unwavering commitment to promoting quality in higher education. She noted that despite their dedication, they face several challenges that impede their effectiveness.
These challenges include limited funding relative to their significant mandate and the shortage of the necessary experts to fulfill their mission effectively. “We need the finances to monitor and inspect a large number of institutions under our jurisdiction. we also need more experts in various disciplines to facilitate monitoring,” Prof. Okwakol noted adding that the inadequacy of resources affects NCHE’s efficient delivery of mandate and staff recruitment.
She also pointed out that some institutions’ level of compliance is wanting “When we exercise our mandate and revoke institutions’ licenses, some resort to courts of law to contest their closure. It is the reason that institutions with revoked licenses continue operating.”
The existing legislation does not grant NCHE the authority to enforce closures. The current legal framework allows NCHE to revoke licenses and communicate these decisions to the institutions but does not empower them to execute the closure.
Professor Okwakol expressed optimism, stating, “Through the ongoing review of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act of 2001, there is a prospect of empowering NCHE to not only revoke licenses but also enforce the closure of institutions when necessary.