Parliament has halted government's proposed move to increase science teachers' salaries starting FY 2018/19.
Early this year, government proposed to increase the salary of graduate science teachers to Shs 1.9 million in the 2018/2019 financial year while an arts teacher with the same qualifications will earn about Shs 600,000.
Government also proposed to pay science teachers with diplomas Shs 800,000 and their arts colleagues Shs 400,000. However, parliament's education committee has recommended that the pay rise for science teachers be put on hold because its discriminatory against the arts teachers.
The committee chairperson Connie Nakayenze tabled the report before the House - noting that the proposed increment will only create disparity in the payment of teachers with the same qualifications. The committee observed that all teachers contribute to the holistic upbringing of a child with a healthy body, mind and soul.
"The committee notes with concern that the proposed increment will bring about supervisory challenges since even the supervisors in the education sector like the commissioners and directors at the ministry of Education are paid a lower salary as compared to the proposed salary for the science teachers. For example, commissioners and directors at the ministry earn Shs 1,350,000 and Shs 1,859,000 million respectively." reads part of the committee report.
The committee recommended that the money allocated for the proposed salary increment instead be directed to recruit the required 2,000 science teachers who continue appearing as unfunded priorities in the education sector budget.
It also noted that there are districts like Buliisa and Bulambuli that rely on senior six leavers to teach science subjects.
Nakayenze further noted that the proposed pay rise for science teachers was unconstitutional and discriminatory contrary to Article 40 (18) of the Constitution, which requires 'parliament to enact laws to ensure equal payment for equal work without discrimination.'
She advised government to harmonise the pay of teachers through wide consultations with the concerned stakeholders.
"The committee further advises that, besides, the use of financial benefits several other issues have got to be addressed including teachers housing, laboratories, classrooms and other teaching aids in the school to improve students performance in science subjects. The committee maintains that the policy of salary increment on its own, will not address the underperformance in science subjects. To the contrary, it could create the following challenges for the sector. The arts teachers will be grossly demotivated and as a result underperform or engage in strikes. Two, this may also bring about fights and strikes among the students since the arts students will disadvantaged over their colleagues who study sciences." she said.
Legislators across the political divide supported the recommendation from the committee. The shadow attorney general, Wilfred Niwagaba, said there was no need to discriminate among teachers, saying it is uncalled for.
"The recommendation on equity, I beg you honourable members lets support the committee’s recommendation. The idea of discriminating employment to teachers between arts and sciences is appalling." said Niwagaba.
Efforts by the Public Service minister Muruli Mukasa to convince the MPs that arts teachers were to be catered for at a later stage due to financial constraints were futile.
"I would like Rt. Hon. speaker to give my solemn assurance that a gap has been noted and ministry of Public Service has undertaken to narrow the gap come the next enhancement in FY 19/20. Also, the issue of discrimination doesn’t arise once, because we have not derogated from the constitutional provision and its not a policy. What we have done is simply use the tactic, a method of implementation. Yes, and that method of implementation dictated by the reality. The reality is we do not have enough money." Muruli pleaded.
Speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga ruled that parliament was obliged to abide by the Constitution and not endorse discrimination. Her ruling left Mukasa with no option but to abide with the decision of parliament.
"Honourable members, I think we’re obliged to abide by the constitution that this House should not endorse discrimination. Let the government go back with respect to the teachers , go back and work out a solution." said Kadaga.