Friday, September 16, 2011

Let's get real ; teacher’s salary increment is long overdue

Published by Daily Monitor Wednesday September 28,2011

Vincent Nuwagaba

I read with concern Mike Ssegawa’s article titled, “Let’s get real; teachers do not deserve salary increment now”. I would like to use the Daily Monitor whose company slogan is truth every day to expose the truth to Mr Ssegawa and his ilk about the supreme importance of a teacher and why they deserve a pay raise now. Ssegawa rightly acknowledges that teachers need a pay raise. He, however, swerves and goes diversionary when he says they are holding us hostage over their salaries. I know he reasons in such a manner because he is not a teacher. I need to step in the shoes of a Ugandan teacher who started as a grade III teacher, upgraded to Grade V and currently is a university graduate but to date still gets a monthly salary of Sh260,000. We also need to put the concept teacher into perspective. Who says a university professor of law, medicine, journalism or engineering – professions that Ssegawa glorifies is not a teacher? And is everyone that has gone through a teacher training college a teacher in a real sense?
Although I cherish humility and therefore always refrain from tooting my own horn, I have been a teacher at two stages throughout my education career – I taught in a primary school in my senior six vacation and I have taught in university. I have received feedback from parents – not students that I am a good teacher. I have also facilitated in some functions and I get positive responses. However, I have never had any formal training as a teacher. Thus, if you asked me who a teacher is, I would say, that man or woman ably passes on knowledge, information, values or skills to another person.
Before the teachers called off their strike, the Premier Amama Mbabazi threatened them with sacking and recruitment of fresh ones. How sure can we be that we would real teachers for our children even if they had paper qualifications? We are deeply engrossed into form rather than substance. How do you sack a tried, tested and trusted teacher and you replace him/her with the one that hasn’t even undergone orientation or induction? So our children should be turned into laboratories onto which tests and trials are done? Sadly, those who intended to sack teachers don’t have their children or grand children in UPE schools. They have eaten too much and are now suffering from indigestion!
As to whether teachers are holding us hostage over their salaries, he who wears the shoe knows how it pinches. And by the way, teachers have not stopped anybody from demanding a pay raise. Teachers and indeed all workers have a right to withdraw their labour if they are not well remunerated. All workers are entitled to a living wage.
The argument that only what the government should do is to control the spiraling inflation is misleading. With or without inflation, Shs250,000 is not worth working for. Not by people in the noble profession!
When Ssegawa argues that teachers’ level of education, workload and experience are miles away from other professionals such as doctors, state attorneys, accountants, engineers and journalists, I fail to understand whether or not he is a journalist because journalists like academics are the most informed people. While different people have different opinions, I would expect journalists, academics and researchers to give informed and considered opinions not opinions pedaled on the streets. A teacher goes to class, draws lesson plans and schemes of work and at home after 5pm, they embark on marking.
Ssegawa and his ilk should know that university professors are teachers but also there are currently primary and secondary school teachers with Masters Degrees. UNATU’s James Tweheyo and I were supervised by Professor John-Jean Barya for a master in human rights. How many Ugandans are better educated than him? When my brother talks of experience what exactly does he mean? Is he saying that inexperienced teachers are the only ones that laid down their tools?
Ssegawa lies that education has the “most lax” and affordable requirements for entry into higher institutions of learning. He must be uninformed and while he is entitled to his opinions, he has no right whatsoever to misinform others. Not any fool can qualify to do a degree course in education from Makerere University for instance. Maybe he is talking about what some people have called useless universities.
Mr Ssegawa makes a good observation that there’s need to increase salaries across the board. Granted! That doesn’t stop teachers from demanding salary increment and since he is a journalist, I would expect him to use his profession to urge the police, military, doctors and state attorneys to demand a living wage. Personally, I hardly need state attorneys in my life because all they do is work hard to secure convictions of many people so that they can be appreciated in which case many innocent people are convicted as a result of state attorneys that Ssegawa idolises. Besides, state attorneys don’t complain because they have their informal ways of getting money – read bribery.
Teachers have many dependents including their very pupils and students and this justifies their demand. I am only saddened that they asked only 100 percent increment which would translate into a total monthly earning of Sh500,000. What will that little do for the teacher, his wife, his elderly mother and father, his children and other dependents? It is just a drop in the ocean. True, teachers have their pupils and students depending on them. My Maternal Uncle James Ruremire died when I was in P5. For P6 and P7, my fees were paid by Raphael Kamugisha, a Grade III teacher at Kigarama Primary School. He was the second person to buy me a trouser after my grandma Susanna Kirakwende. I cannot count how many of my teachers bought for me goodies at school. After senior four, I opened a shop and I used Charles Yemare and Nazario Twesigomwe commonly called Debraza - my former teachers’ bicycles to do my business. Let’s get real; forcing hungry, angry and impoverished teachers to work is detrimental to our children for they can give them wrong information and formulae.
The writer is a human rights defender

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A 15% promised salary increment is a mockery to the Ugandan teachers

Vincent Nuwagaba
Ever since the teachers started their strike, I haven’t written about it. Not because, I was indifferent to their concerns but because I wanted to first gather ample views about their industrial action. It has now emerged that their industrial action has come to a halt even when their demands have been snubbed by the political leadership. What’s more disturbing is that the teachers’ industrial action ended in the wake of threats by the prime minister whose office is allotted billions of taxpayers’ money and his daily expenditure evidently far surpasses a teacher’s monthly salary as though the prime minister is superhuman while a teacher is subhuman.
As a human rights defender, I hold three principles dear, viz; human dignity, equality and non-discrimination. These principles should take centre stage as we analyse the plight of teachers. With due respect to Mr Amamba Mbabazi, our dear prime minister, some teachers are as educated as he is. What makes him believe that he has an inherent right to earn millions from taxpayers’ money while teachers are paid peanuts? personally, rarely do I need the services of a minister and politicians generally (if we have functional technocrats) but I will be terribly hurt if teachers denied us their services. I am a political scientist because of teachers; Mbabazi is a lawyer, MP and premier because of teachers and by the way Mbabazi’s boss is a president courtesy of teachers.
Personally, I hold all my teachers in high esteem including those who harassed me and those who taught me mathematics although I didn’t pass it. Actually, in terms of hierarchy and closeness, my teachers are second to my parents. Indeed they are also my parents! To all my teachers right from Kigarama Primary school, Kigarama, Kanyabwanga and Bubangizi Secondary schools up to Makerere University, I must say thank you and long live. Because I love teachers, I empathise and sympathise with them and call upon all well-meaning Ugandans to fight their battle for their battle is a battle for the welfare of our children.
I spent the weekend of 10th and 11th September in Bitereko my place of birth, upbringing and study and shared pleasantries with my primary and secondary school teachers together with some old students who joined the teaching profession. I told them first that while I sympathise with them, I am disappointed that they could settle for too little. Imagine, asking for a monthly salary of Sh500,000 in the current Uganda. Mr Bigirwamukama, a head teacher of Karangara Primary School told me he spends Sh4m every term for he has dependents but also his children are in relatively good schools. He has to sell his cattle but also mortgage his land to acquire loans to pay fees for his children and dependents. Ultimately, while he works for government, he is perpetually and incessantly indebted. Many teachers are insolvent because their liabilities far outweigh their assets and incomes. Fred Muhumuza, a parent for Kigarama Primary school justified the need for enhancement of teachers’ salaries by proving statistically that even the 100% increment they need is just a drop in the ocean. Muhumuza considered a teacher with a small family of six members and said if Sh500,000 was divided among six members each member would get Sh83,000 an amount that cannot push them for a month considering medical care, feeding, transport, clothing and other basics. Surely, the 500,000 that teachers need is barely enough to solve even 10% of their financial woes. Donozio Tumugabirwe an LCI Chairman for Katwe II said, “The money they demand is too little, and sadly government has blatantly refused to grant it”. It is clear that even if they were paid Sh1m a month, teachers would still not enjoy but it gives them a breathing space.
I continued the debate on teacher’s welfare when I was aboard a bus coming to Kampala on Monday, September 12th and some Engineer told me, “In simplest way, we are not better than Uganda Kobs which we have left in the National Park because whenever a Kob falls into a ditch the other one jumps it and doesn’t care about the fallen one”. However, I would think that Kobs are better than many Ugandan leaders because they don’t exploit each other. With us, someone arrogates himself powers (for the case of those who use the gun and buy votes) to collect taxes from us. This revenue is ordinarily supposed to be put in a national till for social welfare purposes. Shockingly, this money cannot enhance teachers’ meagre incomes; cannot equip health centres with drugs and a road that should have four lanes ends up with two and piliferage has become fashionable. I have a hunch that Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) leaders have had their palms oiled (read bribed) to call off the strike when no visible fruits have been born.
I read an article by a one Mike Ssegawa titled, “Let’s get real; teachers don’t deserve salary increment now” and I was dismayed at the base analysis. Can we have lawyers, doctors, engineers or journalists without teachers? Oh my God! The teaching profession is a mother to all the other professions and it cannot be less important than other professions. At least, some of us who have had an opportunity to go to school should refrain from such debates. It’s like indulging in a debate on whether mother is better than father! It’s common knowledge that teachers play a complementary role to the parents. In fact, teachers spend more time with our children, buy for them sweets, playing kits and nurse them. Accordingly, teachers shape our children more than parents. Some parents especially fathers take days if not months to see their children. How do we despise and condemn the shapers of our country’s future to misery, poverty, hopelessness and frustration. It’s high time we paid our teachers at least Sh1m per month. How do we expect them to teach our children when they are hungry and angry? What if they poison our children with wrong information and formulae? We must know that their plight has just been postponed and most likely it will grow bigger. Government’s proposal for a 15% pay raise to the noble profession is a mockery because they also want their children to become lawyers, doctors and engineers and must be opposed by all well-meaning Ugandans. Ask me the two most important people in my life I will show you my parent and my teacher.
The writer is a human rights defender with keen interest in socio-economic rights

Museveni's NRM is already history

Vincent Nuwagaba

Please, don't ever waste your time and mental energies thinking of removing this dictatorship using guns. We are soon removing Museveni without firing a single shot. And by the way, even if we were to use guns, Museveni cannot defeat any organised group contrary to what some of you think that it would be playing into his hands.

True, Museveni has heavily invested in military arsenal but he has disappointed the military men and women so much so that when a serious battle breaks out, the rank and file in the UPDF and Police would point their guns at him not his opponents. Haven't you read in today's papers how NRM MPs thwarted the efforts by the opposition to have salaries of teachers, policemen, soldiers and prison warders enhanced. So why would you think the people Museveni and NRM are fighting would defend their very enemies. For some time now, I have been sensitising the police about their rights and I have often told them that their number one enemy is Museveni and their number 2 enemy is Kale Kayihura.
It's Museveni and Kayihura who makes the policemen earn a paltry sh260,000 a month when they work almost twenty four hours a day; it's Museveni and Kayihura who have kept the policemen in unipots which they share between two families; it is Museveni and Kayihura who have kept the senior officers in Asbestos thatched houses when it is clear that that is a health hazard.

Right now, policemen cannot afford university education for themselves and their own children; none of them can afford to take a girl friend to a good restaurant if they don't steal and I am investigating the source of money for those who have bought plots of land, vehicles and made lavish wedding ceremonies when they have been in the force for only three years and their monthly pay is 470,000. Stolen money cannot be said to have been earned.
I am sure that all the guns in the hands of the military, police, prisons and civilians will be turned against Uganda's enemy Museveni. However, we are soon winning the battle without firing a single shot. Thus, all we need is to urge the armed Ugandans to protect us because our cause is their cause. Long Live Uganda!

Vincent Nuwagaba is a human rights defender and can be reached via phone on +256712843552
email: or

Red Pepper has become a classic case of yellow journalism!

Vincent Nuwagaba

I have looked at the front page of today’s Red pepper with utter disgust and I must say, very many understanding Ugandans are soon withdrawing the respect they hitherto had for the tabloid. I am terribly annoyed that a newspaper can publish such pictures on its front page even if it is true. When I expressed my concern with one of the journalists managing one of Uganda’s premier newspapers, he told me, “Red pepper is the best selling news paper”. When I asked, whether what they publish is what we need, he added, “It sells more than the New Vision”. Why he did that is to emphasise that that’s what the market (readers want). This is yellow journalism at its very best. Yellow journalism is the type of journalism that flouts all the ethical principles of journalism. This sensational reporting is as a result of what Kahinda Otafiire refers to as the gutter press. I don’t care whether or not what the Red Pepper published about Prof Gilbert Bukenya is true, why must Red Pepper think, it is for public consumption?
Who of us – Ugandans including the Red Pepper Managers and staff is a saint? Why wouldn’t the Red Pepper Directors be guided by the Golden Rule of Morality which goes, “Do to others, as you would want them do to you” (Luke 6:31). I deeply respect some of the Red Pepper directors especially my brother Arinaitwe Rugyendo who was in the line of becoming a Catholic Priest. Rugyendo still comports himself well, he is humble and notwithstanding what views other people have about him, I cherish his methods of work. I am, however, disappointed that a paper to which Rugyendo is a director can sink so deep as to publish such useless stuff.
To begin with, what the paper is writing about Bukenya is traumatic; it will traumatize Bukenya’s family – his wife, children and aging mother. If that’s the intention of the paper editors, then they are turning themselves into sadists. Secondly, the Red Pepper has at one point in time published a false story about me. I only chose to keep peace but I would have dragged them to the courts of law over defamation. Shamelessly, even when I wrote to clear my name they never published my story neither did they apologise for the wrong story published.
Why would Red Pepper editors think they have an innate right to pry into anybody’s private life including Professor Bukenya? I am in no way saying Bukenya is an angel; I am not his spin doctor or spokesman but I am enraged at the manner in which the red pepper journalists have chosen to make money at the expense of his human dignity. The Prime Minister, the President, the First Lady and all other ministers and MPs have their own gaffes, why doesn’t the Red Pepper write about them? Could the allegation by Radio Katwe that the Red Pepper is used to destroy politically non Bakiga-Banyankore hold some grain of truth?
Who of the Red Pepper directors, editors and reporters is an angel; a saint that they would be comfortable with anybody who pries into their private lives? While Bukenya is a former Vice President, former minister and currently a member of parliament, he remains a human being entitled to the right of his privacy? By following him up everywhere, the Red Pepper reporters show that they are uncouth and they expose their moral nakedness. It is not Bukenya who is portrayed in negative terms but you guys in the Red Pepper. In the Bible, we read of a woman caught in adultery and when it was suggested that Moses’ law be invoked so that she would be stoned, Jesus said he who has never sinned should be the first to throw a stone at her (John 8:1-11). The same Bible in Mathew 7:3 exhorts us not to see a speck in our neighbour’s eye before we save ourselves of a log in our own eye. I am sure that none of those rumour mongers that have specialised in writing about Bukenya are more morally upright than him. Please, give a man of God a break.
To Red Pepper editorial team, must you publish any rubbish because you need your paper to sell or because you have been given money by someone? How can the Red Pepper convince us that it’s not doing a mercenary job – that some people have hired it to trim Professor Bukenya’s political wings? How can we be convinced that Red Pepper is not part of the Dirty Tricks Unit (DTU) which the NRM uses to destroy political opponents and any other people that threaten its political survival? If the Red Pepper management doesn’t repent, doom is awaiting it. I am not going to play a false prophet job because I want you people to promote me. I must advise you as brothers and comrades that the path you are taking is perilous. Please be mindful that there’s a future after the NRM regime which has protected you and enabled you to abuse professionalism to mint money.The world doesn’t revolve around money! For God and my country.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Uganda under Museveni is devoid of Ubuntu

I have been impelled to write this article by Professor Augustus Nuwagaba’s article “Govt must rectify the salary imbalance in public sector” (See Daily Monitor, Friday, September 9, 2011). Lots of money approved by MPs for community barazas; money approved for patriotism clubs yet the claim is that there is no money for salary enhancement for all civil servants.
We need to define the concept patriotism. Who actually is a patriot? Is it an MP who earns 21m a month; IGP who reportedly uses 1.3b a day whenever there’s a protest, demonstration or strike; is it a political leader whose daughter will give birth from a first world country using huge sums of taxpayers’ money when women in labour at Mulago Hospital corridors hardly find gloves, kaveera, cotton wool, surgical blade and spirit to enable them deliver babies; is it a minister whose children study from international schools but blackmails teachers with sacking when they demand a modest pay raise of Shs250,000; is it a presidential advisor who pockets millions of money including AC Vehicles and security guards when but never meet the president only to see him on TV yet medical doctors are paid 700,000, is patriotism a preserve of young men and women of one particular political inclination?
Where can the money be found? Where is the waste? A lot of government revenue is wasted on the following.
There is a tendency where government institutions especially ministries are being duplicated by the creation of various semi-autonomous authorities like KCCA, URA, NDA, UNRA, NPA, UIA, CAA, NFA, UWA, among others. There are other semi-autonomous agencies such as NWSC, NSSF, National Housing, Administrator General, etc. in addition to authorities we also have semi-autonomous Commissions. Workers in these agencies and commissions earn far higher than the conventional civil servants. Ultimately, the mainstream civil servants spend virtually all their energies thinking of how and how much they can steal to bridge the gap that exists between them and their counterparts in the named authorities. For example a fresh university graduate who enters public service starts from salary scale u4 and his/her take home is around Sh470,000. A similar fresh graduate who enters URA or NPA earns between 1.5 to 3m. if one wants to move at the same pace with their contemporaries they therefore spend virtually all the time devising means of “cutting deals” and the service delivery is poor if not negative. Mainstream civil servants are government employees and so are workers in authorities, commissions and other agencies. Why then can’t we have a uniform salary structure for all government employees?
The other area of waste is the big size of cabinet and parliament who earn very fat emoluments and the flowery title of honourable. To ascend to these positions, the academic requirement is a mere equivalent of Advanced Level. Shockingly, these MPs and ministers delude themselves that they make a bigger contribution than teachers, police, medical workers and without any shame university professors. Interestingly, quality of these “Honorable” members is wanting as some MPs may take their entire term without contributing to debate.
The other area of waste is the elevation of counties into districts and proliferation of sub counties for political expediency while duping the masses that they would bring or take services closer to the people. Instead these have ended up increasing the burden on taxpayers due to the cost of Administration like new Councils, RDC’s, DSO’s, GISO’s, Departments, vehicles and structures such as buildings. While the argument that the proliferation of districts and sub counties was meant to enhance service delivery, government health centres are devoid of essential drugs and equipment; government aided schools are on the verge of collapse because of poor performance; UPE and USE are just in name but we neither have universal primary or secondary school education because the remittance UPE for each pupil is less than Sh 2000 while USE remittance for each student is Sh41,000. In a school such Kigarama Primary School, parents are compelled to pay 15,000 for each child under UPE while at Kigarama secondary School parents part with Sh78,000 for each student under USE. One wonders if a parent pays 15,000 for his/her child and government tops up 1300 or 1500 why should government say it caters for our children?
Government violates ILO Conventions – convention 100- equal pay for equal value of work.
Doesn’t government have the money? The argument that government has no money is a hoax. There are too many taxes paid by Ugandans and URA collects huge sums of money on a daily basis. However, the problem is largely abuse and misuse of these monies through priority misplacement and imbalances in the allocation. These imbalances are largely responsible for the misappropriation and embezzlement of public funds as we highlighted in the foregoing. Our society has enough to satisfy all our needs but doesn’t have enough to satisfy our greed.
We have businessmen who pay no taxes. These happen to be business associates with the powers that be. Because they don’t pay taxes, if a genuine businessman imports or exports they are taxed through the nose. That professors cannot sponsor their children in universities where they teach is a truism. On the whole, what need to be overhauled are not the salary structures but a whole system starting from the political establishment. Many Ugandans under Museveni are devoid of Ubuntu which manifests in humanity, empathy and experiences a moral downturn.
The author is a human rights defender

Friday, September 2, 2011

Let’s all demand social justice in Uganda

By Vincent Nuwagaba

First published by Daily Monitor on Friday, September 2 2011

Two media stories have compelled me to make an input. The first is President Museveni’s war against anybody who is opposed to the give-away of part of Mabira Forest to Mehta for sugarcane growing and the second is the report launched by UWEZO on August 18, titled, “Are our children learning?”.

On Museveni’s ‘sugar war’, I find statements attributed to him worrying, annoying and unconstitutional. To begin with, the President has no right to donate public land. The government holds public property, including land, in public trust. Any attempt to give away public property without the consent of Ugandans is tantamount to abuse of the trusteeship. Sadly, the abuse of trusteeship has gone on in the past for so long that the President now thinks he has a customary right to do whatever he wants. In my considered view, the war that the President has declared against environmentalists and all save Mabira crusaders is a war against himself.

While the President has a history of winning many wars, I think he will surely lose this one. While the President reportedly said he is ready for war on sugar, he seems to have given up on other meaningful wars such as grand corruption, poor quality education, inaccessibility to higher education by the poor; lack of health facilities and graduate unemployment, among others. We would also need to know whether or not the President intends to use guns to fight his war. If he is talking of an ideological war, then well-meaning Ugandans should be ready for the battle of brains.

The President was quoted as having said, “I am not ready to listen to anybody who is saying that I save Mabira”. Does he then still maintain that he derives his legitimacy from the people of Uganda? Is that not abrogation of Article 1 of our Constitution which says power belongs to the people? At the Pan-African club meeting at Seascallop Restaurant in Kamwokya recently, some NRM activists were saying Mabira is already gone, can someone in the know throw light on this?

At the press conference addressed by Hon John Ken Lukyamuzi and Hon Beatrice Anywar, they alleged that Mehta has not paid taxes for the past 26 years, why then does he have to be given free land? Is he an investor worth the name if he doesn’t pay taxes? I know pretty well the working conditions of Scoul employees and the meagre salaries they earn.

I would be comfortable if Mr Museveni waged his war against theft that is now synonymous with the NRM (remember while in Rwanda recently the President said Ugandans are thieves), I would be happy if Mr Museveni funded education. It’s amazing that the government remits less than Shs2,000 for each pupil under UPE and a paltry Shs41,000 for each student under USE yet schools spend around Shs120,000 on each student. And this is why the UWEZO report shows that Ugandan primary school children suffer from literacy and numeracy capabilities.

Museveni should also fulfill his promise of introducing university student loans and prevail on universities to cut tuition fees. It is ironic that in Museveni’s Uganda, public educational institutions are financed by poor parents and students as though they have ceased being state institutions. Recently, teachers made a modest--considering what they are earning--100 per cent pay raise but their demand was rejected by the government. If I were one of them, I would have asked for 400 per cent salary increment. Don’t Ugandan teachers, policemen, prison warders, and indeed all civil servants want their children to attain university education?

As other well-meaning Ugandans join environmentalists to save Mabira, I also call upon the rest to join me in demanding the right to education which is enshrined in Article 30 of the 1995 Constitution and the international human rights instruments that Uganda has ratified, which stress that higher education shall be accessible on the basis of merit.

These include inter alia Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948), Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966), Articles 28 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989), Article 10 of the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), Articles 1, 2 and 5 of the International Covenant on Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination, 1969) and Unesco Convention Against Discrimination in Education.

Accordingly, education is a fundamental human right but also that it is a critical tool for social transformation is obvious. Let’s all demand social justice in Uganda for we are citizens, not subjects.
Mr Nuwagaba is a human rights defender.