The rift between Arts and Science teachers over “discriminatory” salary enhancement by the government is affecting learning in schools, this publication has established.
Mercy Nabirye, a S.6 science student from Iganga Girls Secondary School, said in an interview that arts and science students are attacking each other.
“There is a very big divide between science and arts in school. They feel sciences are being given more priority than they should. So the arts students are attacking their science counterparts and the science students are doing the same,” she said. “It is a very big problem in school. You lose your friend just because they are doing arts and I am doing Science,” she added.
This rift between teachers has also gone to the students. Those who are doing arts are seen as people who are wasting time,” he said.
Mr James Isooba, a Science teacher at the Iganga Girls SS, said they don’t know how best to handle it. He said the only remedy is to harmonise the salary of all teachers.
“This rift between teachers has also gone to the students. Those who are doing arts are seen as people who are wasting time,” he said.
“They are stigmatising Arts teachers so much. I feel the government should harmonise the salary of teachers,” he added.
Mr Isooba said it is no longer nice being in the school staff room.
“You find Arts teachers looking at Science teachers as people who are earning big and should do more work than them. If they give them responsibility, they reject because they feel they are being marginalised by the government,” he said.
The Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) general secretary, Mr Filbert Baguma, during last months strike said they want the salary of Arts teachers at graduate level capped at Shs4.5m per month while Science teachers can be Shs4.8m.
The Unatu leaders called off the strike on July 4 after a meeting with President Museveni, saying they would continue engaging the government as learning continues.
The president of the Uganda National Students Association (UNSA), Mr Yusuf Welunga, told this newspaper that the issues have been reported by learners across the country.
“Our position as UNSA is very clear. The government must promote equality in terms of payment of salaries of its workers. What the Science teachers do is the same as what the Art teachers do. They all attend to those particular students,” he said.
“And even if a student passes science subjects and fails the arts subjects, the student would have failed. We don’t need discrimination when it comes to the payment of teachers. The government should pay all teachers equally and their salary must increase because education is the backbone of national development,” he added.
Ms Moreen Kityo, an Arts teacher from Joven’s High School in Entebbe, said: “We need to work together as Science and Arts teachers. We need arts to increase the understanding of science.”
Mr Museveni, in the meeting which resulted in calling off of the strike in July, said the issue of the Arts teachers would be handled.
“I assured them that while government acknowledges the issues raised by the Arts teachers, we are also aware of salary issues from other workers; the army, police officers, etc who are equally important to the growth and development of this country. We have provided a position as government and pledged to competitively remunerate workers guided by a science-led strategy.
‘‘The Arts teachers insist that we should use the available resources to improve salaries across the board, whilst this is possible, it does not solve the salary issue. It is okumemerera (sprinkling), where everyone will get a little and then next year everyone strikes,” President Museveni said.