May 22, 2018 – On Monday, Parliament reversed a proposal by the Museveni led executive to give science teachers preferential salaries that in some instances would have been three times what their arts teaching counterparts were going to earn.
Instead, the house approved a uniform pay rise for all teachers and reallocated the money saved to support the recruitment of 3000 additional teachers. Parliament’s action may not be popular with science teachers but it could be the saving grace for UNATU that now faces the risk of a split if this issues is not navigated with skill.
Under proposals that had been tabled by the ministry of Public Service, graduate science teachers would be paid Ushs 1.9 million while their arts counterparts would suffer with a gross salary of just Ushs 600,000. Diploma holders would earn Ushs 800,000 while their arts colleagues remained at a paltry 400,000.
Parliament rejected the proposal on the grounds that it was discriminatory and thus unconstitutional. But it remains to be seen if Parliament will succeed in derailing Museveni’s wider scheme of dividing the teaching fraternity. As human instinct goes, UNATU will now find it hard to present a united front since science teachers are likely to feel that the union is standing between them and the President’s juicy offer if its leaders back the action by parliament. With or without the money however, Museveni may have succeeded in dividing one of the most organised trade unions in the country.
While the proposal, despicable as it is may have surprised many people, to Museveni watchers, it fits into a well-established pattern of sectarianism starting from when Museveni assumed power in Uganda and it is no accident that ethnic bias is now an inbuilt element in career progression across many spheres of the public service.
In his first address to Ugandans after shooting his way to power in 1986, President Museveni sold Ugandans a strange proposition. Under his concept of broad-based government, the national political and economic cake would be shared out not only on the basis of whatever political formations he approved of but ethnicity as well.
At the time, this appealed to many Ugandans from the South, who blinded by their hatred for the north and northern region’s prior dominance of the instruments of coercion – the army, police and prisons services- wrongly believed that the north enjoyed a disproportionate share of opportunities in the public service. Hence, in one clever ruse, for the first time in Uganda’s post-independence history, ethnicity became a qualification for appointment to public office. Many Ugandans cheered as individuals from previously invisible ethnic minorities were appointed to political office.
With time however, this policy has slowly shifted to create an imbalance in favour of the west. Command positions across many institutions of the state are firmly in the hands of people from one geographical region as the policy of broad-based government slowly turns into ethnic dominance.
In a situation where the state has abdicated on its social contract with Ugandans, this has grave and almost irreversible implications unless it is stopped now. Imagine a situation where the best education and healthcare is bought with money. What chances are the children of the economically excluded going to have in a future economy where academic credentials speak first?
Slowly, a class system if being formed where the children of the privileged (and possibly corrupt), will rule over the children of those who cannot afford to take their children to a non-UPE school. Even is such a child was unusually gifted, experience with the politically controlled government sponsorship scheme for university education means that more often than not, it is the children of those with the ability to pay that benefit.
This development also fits into Museveni’s grand plan of class formation in Uganda. At the onset of his rule, Museveni said one of the reasons Uganda was suffering frequent conflict was the absence of classes. Now, he has created not just economic classes but through selective breeding, a superior race that is entitled to the product of our collective toil.