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Private School teachers at crossroads again

 

Hard times for teachers

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Private school teachers have been left in despair again, after the government resolved to close schools following a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.

Many of them broke into tears and appeared frustrated as they saw off children, many of whom had just returned to school after more than a year of inactivity. Many of the schools reopened in September for candidate classes and allowed others to return in a staggered calendar this year.

The lower primary classes were scheduled to return today, just a week after the return of the senior two class, the last group in the secondary category to return to school. The Senior One class returned in April and was yet to complete the school term. However, according to the President, the schools need to close for at least 42-days, effective today.

Walter Tendo, an English teacher at Castle Junior School noted that the closure of schools close to two months is worrying, especially because many of them had the pinch of unemployment for almost one year after the first lockdown.

Tendo says that when schools closed in March last year, he struggled to make ends meet and that he, was heavily indebted, by the time the schools reopened.

Zurich Namakula, another teacher at Castle Junior School noted that the future is unpredictable because the government might extend the school closure as the case was last year.

Lawrence Mulema, a biology and chemistry teacher in Wakiso regrets coming back to teaching when schools reopened. Mulema says he has no capital and therefore left with one option of going back to his village instead of waiting for the second reopening that may not be nearer.

With the second closure and uncertainty over the education sector in the next three to four years, Daniel Mbonye, another teacher says he is planning to abandon the teaching profession to concentrate on the scrap business.

Last year, the government estimated that there were 350,000 private teachers in different private institutions across the country. A majority of them were surviving on handouts from sympathetic parents as school proprietors are unable to pay them, while others were involved in a series of odd jobs.

When schools reopened, some teachers who had found solace in their new ventures didn’t return.   During that time, school owners mooted an idea courting government to help them pay their teachers. But, the idea was immediately trashed by the government saying it didn’t have funds.  As time went by, the president promised to give out 20 billion Shillings to teachers through their SACCO as a stimulus package, 11 months down the road, teachers are yet to receive the said funds.

Ruth Musenze, couldn’t hold tears while talking to our reporter and noted before the closure of schools, the government should have put up a stimulus package for teachers in private schools.

As one of the means to ensure that school doesn’t lose teachers, some schools are looking for means to keep facilitating their staff through the second school closure. For instance, Lydia Naluze, the headteacher of Castle Junior School, says for the two months’ closure, her school in addition to rent will be able to pay at least half of teachers’ salaries.

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