It was on 18th March 2020 when a number of stringent measures were announced to control the spread of COVID 19 in communities of Uganda of which one was to close education institutions from pre-primary to post primary for 30 days initially.
Little did they know that this was a shark/ monster which had come to devour the treasured teaching profession mother of all professions. Teachers are in all walks of life silently facing the wrath of COVID19 swallowed by the jaws of the monster with no one at their rescue. In the first instance, many of these teachers last got paid salary of February.
It is not that their employers have refused to pay them but are also hand tied as their source of income is squarely school fees payments by parents and many parents had not cleared fees as most schools had not had their visitation days. The institutions therefore mostly private schools however willing they may be, have no source of income to pay their workers.
These teachers constitute more than 60% of Uganda’s teaching profession. Moreover, what is hard hitting is that most of these teachers are fresh graduates from colleges and universities who have hardly saved anything. Their education has been expensively funded by parents including selling properties like ancestral plantations. The teachers therefore have no home to call home apart schools where they have been teaching. The three or so months of lock down are turning out to be nightmares not only to the teachers but their old/ailing parents who rely on these young teachers as their bread winners.
Where is the once prestigious profession of teaching? When it came to food distribution teachers were left out because the idea was that they get salaries which was a blatant lie by the uninformed so-called high office bearers who rarely get down to know what is on ground. As earlier noted, teachers in private schools or even government aided schools who are on contracts are paid from fees paid by parents and many of them had not paid.
It’s like telling a hand tied man to fight an advancing lion; when the ministry tells directors/headteachers that they ought to have paid teachers however much they deserve so.
Teachers who have therefore sacrificed a lot to make us what we are, are silently dying from food shortage with least sympathy from every one. TEACHING IS REALLY BECOMING A FORGOTTEN TREASURE.
Most of the teachers have now accumulated rent arrears for more than three months and are being threatened with eviction especially those in Urban areas. As the ministry was writing to directors/headteachers to pay the teachers, they should have equally written to parents to clear the fees balances may be. I see it comical to tell them to pay well aware that the students are at home.
These institutions are supporting governments efforts in providing education to the citizens. In fact, I would suggest that the government should think about teachers before thinking about radios and TVs for learner’s who are comfortable in their parents’ homes.
We shall still need teachers after COVID19.Remembering learners but forget teachers is like breaking the pot that cooked you a meal you are eating today and yet you will need the same pot for tomorrow’s meal.
What is my way forward? The ministry of education should come out with post COVID19 harmonised strategies that will cater for all teachers in both private and government schools.
It should equally fast track measures of how teachers can continue surviving in the continued lock down like giving subsidies to all registered private schools to enable them give some stipend to teachers.
Other wise the once treasured as the mother of all professions is quietly but steadily becoming a forgotten treasure. The quality of education determines the quality of the country’s population and you can only achieve this with quality, sound and healthy teachers.
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