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New cities take off but teachers go months without pay

New cities like Gulu have taken off as new units, but many teachers elsewhere are complaining they were not catered for in the changes

Lira, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Several teachers have gone without pay for over a year following the creation of new administrative units. Information obtained by URN indicates that upon the creation of new administrative units, mostly cities, several teachers in school whose areas were annexed to the newly created administrative units were transferred to the newly created units.

Unfortunately, some of them were never included on the payrolls of the areas where their schools had been allocated.

In Lira City, for instance, this situation has affected 1200 teachers from several primary and secondary schools while in Arua district over 143 teachers have been caught in the payroll confusion brought up by the creation of Terego, Madi Okollo and Arua city.

There have been other complaints from teachers in Masaka and Mbale cities as well.

Elias Angandi, a teacher at Olaka primary school in Arua district is one of those affected. He says that he has gone 10 straight months without earning any coin and is contemplating whether to continue teaching or give up.

“I last received money in June last year. I have since been moving to Arua district to figure out what is happening but each time they have been promising that they are working on my case. Recently when I visited UNATU offices, I found out that I was not alone,” he adds.

He said he has been toiling to make ends meet so as to support his family. “Last term was the most difficult. I had to go and teach and spend full time at school but no salary. It’s problematic,” the frustrated teacher laments .

Richard Abiku Ashite, says that he was the deputy head teacher at Oje Primary School currently found in Arua city but he was transferred to Nyirivu Primary School as acting headteacher when the new administrative unit was created. This means that he had been placed under the geographical jurisdiction of Arua district.

Ashite adds that in 2021 the new city of Arua cleared its payroll removing teachers who were previously in their area but had been placed under the jurisdiction of Terego, Madi Okollo and Arua districts.

“They removed us from the Arua city payroll but Arua district officials refused to add us on theirs saying that they had already reached their staff ceiling. Since then we have been making endless trips to Arua district, and Arua city but nothing has been done to help us,” says Ashite.

The acting head teacher notes that he last received his salary in October last year and is now pondering whether he should continue teaching or give up and find another source of income.

The messy situation is to the disbelief of many given the fact that the government has been streamlining payrolls. Eric Candia, the chairperson of Uganda National Teachers Union-UNATU Arua main branch, says that for a long time the local government officials have been giving flimsy explanations instead of solving the problem.

In his letter to the UNATU national secretary general, Candia noted that although Arua district has been hiding behind staff ceiling, there are deliberate corruption tendencies in the entire matter at hand. He notes that they have discovered that Arua district officials have dead and retired teachers on the payroll.

“The teachers were transferred because there were no teachers in schools. (And we have discovered) in some cases names of teachers who died some years back are retained on the payroll or teachers who have retired,” he noted, citing examples of teachers.

“Mr Anguni Peter retired and now is focusing on business and is still on the payroll of Anava Primary School… Mr Lekia Fred died and his name still remains on the payroll,” his letter states listing many other names of retired and dead teachers still on the payroll as those in service are left in limbo.

Filbert Baguma, the UNATU National Secretary General, says it’s unfortunate that teachers are suffering due to the laxity of some responsible government officials under the prevailing situation where commodity prices have escalated.

Baguma says it is surprising that the government is just watching on as the local government and finance ministries blame each other. To him, given the fact that payrolls are electronic, there could be a smooth transfer of data as part of the organisational restructuring whenever a new unit is created.

In the face of this situation the Secretary General has written to the permanent secretary ministry of finance, Ramathan Ggoobi,alerting him that there is mounting anxiety among teachers due to their unpaid salaries.

Baguma says that if the finance ministry doesn’t expeditiously prevail on the responsible officers, his office might be forced to mobilise the entire teaching force in the affected areas to withdraw labour, an option that might end up affecting the innocent learners.

Jim Mugunga, the Ministry of Finance spokesperson, notes that all issues to do with payrolls are organised at the local government level and if anything happens, those in charge of the respective units should be able to sort it.

Despite Mugunga’s explanation, several authorities interviewed from local governments insisted that the mess was created by the ministry of finance. For example, Jasper Abura, the senior education officer in Lira city, who acknowledged that 1200 teachers have not been paid for months, says that when the city was created, the ministry continued sending them a wage bill that they used to send to them when they were still a municipality.

Abura notes that the matter is being addressed and the ministry of finance assured them that a supplementary budget will soon be passed to address this situation.

In the same development, without giving much explanation of why teachers have spent a long time without getting their salaries, Jude Mark Bukenya, the newly appointed Chief Administrative Officer of Arua district noted that all along they have been trying to find a solution.

Bukenya notes that the matter has been sorted out with the ministry of public service and soon the affected teachers will be put on the payroll. He promised that by May they will start receiving their salaries and as time goes by they will also get their arrears.

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URN

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