KAMPALA: The Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) has implored the government to investigate the increasing number of teacher deaths annually across the country.
This message was echoed Thursday as teachers in the country joined in commemoration of International Teacher’s Day under the theme, “The teacher we need for the education we want.” National celebrations were held at Kololo Independence Grounds, where President Yoweri Kaguta was the guest of honor.
According to UNATU Secretary General Filbert Baguma, in the last six years, an average of four hundred fifty (450) teachers have died per year.
Baguma says over two thousand nine hundred (2,900) teachers have died in the last six years, explaining that four hundred ninety-five (495) died in 2018, five hundred forty-nine (549) in 2019, six hundred eighty (680) in 2020, four hundred and ninety (490) in 2021, four hundred thirty-two (432) in 2022, and three hundred teachers died between January and September 30th, 2023.
UNATU now wants the government to interest itself in establishing the cause of deaths and if there is a linkage between them, and also to ensure the timely replacement of the deceased teachers to avoid human resource gaps in schools.
Meanwhile, the government has permitted all teachers in both government-aided and private schools across the country to temporarily close schools for them to take part in the World Teachers’ Day celebrations that took place in the various local governments.
This is according to a circular that was sent to Parliament and signed by the Minister of State for Primary Education, Joyce Moriku Kaducu, which indicated that teachers will not be expected at school on Thursday, and Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) in every local government were informed accordingly.
World Teachers’ Day is dedicated to appreciating teachers and raising public awareness about issues affecting them, including low remuneration and poor working conditions, among others.
During the national celebrations at Kololo independence grounds that were attended by many teachers, President Museveni promised to increase the salaries of arts teachers just like he did for their science counterparts but said it would be done in the near future, urging the arts teachers not to pressure the government into making stampeded decisions about salary increments.
During the teachers’ retreat at State House in 2017, President Museveni promised to increase the salaries of science teachers. However, the directive was only implemented in 2021.
The 300 percent pay rise resulted in a graduate and Grade V teachers’ pay increase to Shs4 million and Shs3 million, up from Shs1.1 million and Shs796,000, respectively.
This not only led to frustration from arts teachers but also among head and deputy head teachers who were left out. The school heads petitioned the government, stating that they were having a difficult time leading staff who were earning twice as much as they were.
Mr. Aron Mugaiga, General Secretary of the Uganda Professional Science Teachers Union (UPSTU), at the time lauded President Museveni for enhancing the salaries of the science school heads.