Teachers across East Africa are pushing for a united front to incorporate their demands as the region moves towards political federation. The teachers feel that as the rest of the processes take centre stage, education has been relegated to the back seat, yet it is at the centre of effective development across the region.
Last week, all the national teachers’ unions in the five East African Community countries were in Tanzania where they agreed to push for reforms in the education sector across the region. One of the issues to tackle is harmonization of training standards for all teachers in the region.
James Tweheyo, the Secretary General of Uganda National Teachers’ Union-UNATU, says there have been disparities in the training of teachers across the region. He says as Uganda takes over the chair of the teachers’ federation, they will push for this so that all the teachers receive the same training. He says all the national teachers’ unions have agreed to work together under the East African Teachers’ Federation to push for better quality of education.
Tweheyo also says the teachers will push for review of laws and policies governing the education sector so that there is uniformity. He says the issue of movement of labour, particularly for teachers must be handled. He says while the focus has been so much on business people transacting across the region with onset of the customs union, there seems to be no modality for teachers so that they cannot be inconvenienced as they try to seek employment from neighbouring countries.
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Tweheyo says with united teachers in the region, they will compel the governments to ensure that teachers’ issues are handled expeditiously. The unions have also agreed to push for negotiations for improved teachers’ working conditions and welfare at the East African level if the national governments are failing to handle the issues.
Currently UNATU is locked up in negotiations with the Uganda government over demand for 25 percent pay rise for teachers in the country. Last year, the teachers went on industrial action after government failed to increase their salaries as earlier on agreed. In 2012, government had reached an agreement with teachers that their salaries would be increased. In that year, they had 15 percent increment.
But last year, the government reneged on its promise and refused to effect the increment. The government claimed that there were other priority areas to address and teacher’s pay rise didn’t feature among them.