The Plight of Teachers

We are those John Blake calls the Children – and grand-children – of the movement. We may use facebook daily on our smartphones, but we also read Biko and Fanon, while listening to music that enlightens and inspires. We hear and believe in young people, but we don’t have a set place in contemporary party politics. And we’re not sure we really want one. Perhaps because our parents got too close, got burned and we have no desire to jump into a shark pool. Or perhaps because we are rebels.As a Nigerian friend put it, ‘everybody wants a slice of the national pie.’ But nobody wants to cook it.

Whereas I have never had desire to be involved in the politics of our land, my small contribution is writing opinions on emerging issues. Sometimes it gets tiring and you don’t want to write but have I options? Not now at least, Uganda is a country where something happens and within a month, it is totally forgotten and we have moved on like nothing happens. Government critics always say that Uganda at its independence had a better GDP than Singapore. Some scholars have posited so. The bigger question is, how did Singapore leap so high that we have become a shadow of ourselves?

In 1965 ,PM Lee Kuan created the master plan behind the modern Singapore, a “first world oasis in a third world region”. Singapore invested heavily in education in order to build and maintain a well educated work force. Currently approximately 20% of government spending goes to education. According to OECD report on educational perfomance around the world, it seems they are paying off .Teaching in Singapore is a highly respected proffesion. They are selected from the top third of each cohort, and to keep them on track with the newest teaching techniques they are entitled to 100 hours of proffessional development annually. Their Ministry of Education recently cut academic content to create more space for developing critical thinking. The apple doesnt fall from the tree, it is nurtured, Africa must redefine its Education not just improving enrollment but putting Emphasis on Quality. That’s a country that has respect for Teaching and Learning. The opposite can be said here in Uganda because teaching is always frowned upon. Some analysts have said that Singapore might have the best Education System based on such indicators. The ‘Asian Tigers ‘have been able to soar because of the investment in human capital. A society that values and respects teachers will have the best human resources. No one will look down on the profession. The problem began with a 300% increase of the Sciences’s Teacher’s salaries leaving their Arts’ colleagues with nothing but to declare an industrial action. For about two weeks,the Uganda National Teachers Union(UNATU) was in negotiations with the government and they agreed to return to work with promises of a phased Increase in the next Financial years. Teaching is a profession that requires motivation, paying different salaries to teachers with the same contact hours is totally uninspiring. The government has no education plan to ensure the promotion of the Sciences. The President is so obsessed with the Sciences that recently he hosted Terrence Howard an American actor with some grand fictitious project. One would have expected him to make the presentation before the fine Professors that we have but no. We have even forgotten that he was here. Much as the Teachers are back in classes, they won’t perform their duties well with the existing distortion in the payment of the salaries.Let us be simplistic, the English is part of Arts. The sciences are taught in English language. The failure to see the interrelatedness of the two disciplines is amazing. My mind quickly ran to maama,who was a rural school teacher.

I have immense respect for government school teachers, particularly those who teach in rural schools. These people deal with children from the most broken families, from the most difficult of circumstances, from the most hopeless of environments. But they do the best that they can, under a visionless education system that sets them up for failure, when they themselves are from difficult circumstances. The teaching proffession has long been associated with failures who dont make it in other fields, but despite the negative stereotype, teachers inspire lots of students to be better than them and achieve greatness. They travel everyday to school either on bicycles or walk, despite governments late pay of peanuts. It is difficult to be inspired in such situations but they continue teaching. They mother and father us. They are our parents when our own mothers and fathers are toiling or in the gardens. They carry us, and it is because of them that today we can be writers, engineers, artists, doctors, sociologists, accountants, historians and everything we have become. You are the stars of the story that our country will one day tell.

My best teacher was and has always been my departed maama . She was neither a scientist nor an artist. She was just a wise woman. I also read arts and sciences. I don’t see how one discipline can exist without the other. The teaching profession shall never seem attractive with such ill thought planning. In the same vein, one would hope that Dr. Mary Kaduchu the junior minister for Primary Health Care to be made a senior cabinet minister and the current one demoted to show and promote sciences. Lee Kuan planned well for his nation. We are working on the electric cars to solve the fuel crisis.Uganda olemwa nosoberwa

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