Ugandan Opposition members of parliament on Wednesday implored striking teachers not to relent on their demand for a pay rise.
Their message to teachers came after parliament endorsed a report from the budget committee indicating that it was not possible to give teachers a 20 percent pay rise because of lack of resources.
Led by Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the leader of the opposition in parliament, the legislators argued that they can not sit back and watch the death of public education in the country.
Nandala noted that the state house budget has quadrupled from 60 billion to 230 billion shillings and wondered why teachers can not get a mere 20 percent pay rise.
He also cited defense, which he said is allocated huge sums of money under classified expenditure despite the fact that the country is no longer at war.
Nandala argued that to develop the country, there is need to invest sufficient resources in Education.
“A national budget without the 20% teachers’ salary increment, does not promote the development of a vital human resource for the sustainable development of the country” Nandala said before adding that, “the country cannot afford to surrender 11 million young Ugandans to a dark future.”
Nandala said as the opposition, given the current crisis they demand that government owns up and accept responsibility for not meeting its commitment and grant a tax holiday to teachers this financial year.
He also asked President Yoweri Museveni to take political responsibility and cut the size of his cabinet by half in order to reduce on Public Administration Expenditure saying this will free enough resources for better pay of teachers, medical workers, police and all civil servants in the country.
Muhammed Nsereko, one of the MPs expelled from the ruling NRM asked teachers not to back down saying it is their right to withdraw their labor if they are dissatisfied with their working condition.
He asked teachers not to succumb to threats of losing their jobs.
“It is unacceptable to say that Parliament could not find money to give teachers but found extra 73bn to allocate to donations.” Nsereko argued.
Hassan Kaps Fungaroo, the Shadow defense minister appealed to other civil servants to support the teachers’ cause arguing that, they also take their children to public schools.
Alice Alaso, the Serere District Woman MP said the decision by NRM, which is the majority in the house to deny teachers a pay rise indicates that they are bent on creating a class society to enhance the divide between the poor and the rich.
She noted that the failure to address issues of motivation is a permanent condemnation of the future of children of the poor and rural areas.
Alaso cautioned Education Minister Jesica Alupo to stop intimidating teachers and force them to enter classes saying they will only pretend to be teaching to the detriment of the future generation.
Additional reporting by URN