Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | There is growing uncertainty around the funds that were put in place to help private teachers to cope with the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The government announced two months ago that it was setting aside a revolving fund of 22 billion Shillings to support teachers whose livelihoods were disrupted when schools were closed in March. The money was channelled through the Microfinance Support Centre.
But more than a month down the road, little is known about the criteria of getting the money. Joseph Kiggundu, the chairperson of the National Private Schools and Institutions COVID-19 committee notes that they have tried to reach out to authorities at the Uganda Microfinance Support Centre in vain.
Kiggundu adds that at one moment, the office of the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education wrote a letter seeking engagement with the Uganda Microfinance Support Centre to generate equitable and appropriate guidelines for the funds but received no response.
At first, John Peter Mujuni the Executive Director of the Uganda Microfinance Support Centre suggested that the funds would be accessed through teachers SACCOS with a projection of giving each group of 30 teachers a maximum of 30 million Shillings. Going by their calculation, available funds would benefit 2,000 SACCOs across the country.
However, Hasadu Kirabira, a private school teacher and administrator says that they later realized that teachers would not be able to get the money in the shortest time possible. He cites that upon reaching the Microfinance Support Centre, some teachers were told to present audited books of their SACCO for the last two years yet most of the said SACCOs had just been established.
As teachers were still pursuing the fund, the Microfinance Support Centre boss and other officials landed into trouble over the expenditure of another 10.8 billion Shillings that the President gave to the teachers’ SACCOS in 2011. He was later remanded on charges of embezzlement and conspiracy to defraud.
Kirabira adds that in the face of many teachers, it was portrayed as if it was the COVID-19 fund which had been embezzled. “Basing on that case, many teachers have since given up on the fund,” he adds.
However, Belinda Atim, the microfinance supporter centre spokesperson says that the acting executive director at the institution will soon update teachers and the country at larger on the matter.
Even though teachers need money, many of them say that they expected the money to come in the form of a grant rather than credit. They argue that their current needs are basic, wondering how they will repay after spending it on non-income generating activities.