In the 2022/23 budget, the government allocated money to increase salaries of scientists who included medical workers, science teachers, engineers, surveyors, statisticians, computer scientists, ICT among others leaving other public servants grumbling!
The major debate has zeroed on Arts vs Science teachers, leading to an industrial action by the teachers under their umbrella body Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU). In a similar development, academic staff in public universities have announced an industrial action under their umbrella body Forum for Academic Staff of Public Universities in Uganda (PASPU) protesting salary disparities as well as those in local governments under their body the Uganda Local Government Workers Union (ULGWU)
The education sector has been affected much on account that it employs the largest portion of our public service but also being the sector, which lays the foundation on which the future of the country stands.
Going by the government’s definition which is of course ambiguous, one realizes that science doesn’t start in secondary school. We have Science and Mathematics being taught in primary schools, so if the government was genuine why didn’t they increase salaries for primary teachers who teach those subjects?
Secondly, although the government considered traditional science subjects like Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Agriculture, they forgot the roles other subjects play. For example, English is key for a student to pass any subject. English is so important that if a student fails it, he skips the original grade to a worse grade, why didn’t the government increase salaries for teachers of English?
For a student to pass with a good grade, he needs to have passed all the subjects including arts and sciences; if a student got 4 aggregates in each of the four science subjects and F9 in the other four subjects he would not get a first grade, and this shows the significance of other subjects.
Around 2006, the government made some subjects compulsory and these included history, geography and English, so if these subjects are less important, why are they forcing our children to learn them at secondary?
Where does Gen Museveni base his conclusion that promoting sciences is the magic bullet to our development problems? Is it about having better engineers and doctors or better administrators and planners or both? Is there a study that has been conducted and it’s on this basis that we are promoting sciences or is it just beating around the bush?
The United Arab Emirates got independence in 1971 seven months after President Amin had captured power in Uganda & it has been reported that Amin gave aid to the UAE. After attaining independence, UAE focused on strategic areas of tourism, trade, transport, social services and petroleum, today it has a higher per-capita income than USA. Did that require good natural scientists or rather good planners, political leaders, administrators, social researchers, economists, etc.? Is Museveni telling us that he who studied political science is a liability to our country?
Look at countries in turmoil; Sudan, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Somalia, Central African Republic etc. are they suffering because of a lack of scientists?
Our society is like a human body where all systems work together; the digestive system can’t operate without a nervous system, a muscular system can’t operate without a skeletal system while a respiratory system can’t do much without cardiovascular system (blood vessels, heart).
In a nutshell, when you pay peanuts to administrators, accountants, planners etc, they will steal the money you are investing in roads, parish model, electricity etc. The underpaid political leaders who would have supervised them will collude with them to steal, the poorly paid police officers who would have arrested them will take bribes from them, the underpaid prosecutors and judges will not charge them in court and will instead share the loot with them and you will end up lamenting how things are not working out simply because you were either misled or refused genuine advice. All workers matter, the government should stop discrimination!
Mwijukye Francis, MP
The author is the MP for Buhweju and Shadow Minister for Trade and Industry