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Africa News of Friday, 16 April 2021

Source: monitor.co.ug

Uganda president's delayed COVID-19 cash divides teachers, supervisors

Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

Thousands of teachers and their supervisors at the Ministry of Education are at loggerheads over delayed access to Shs20 billion that President Museveni promised.

At the height of lockdown last year, Mr Museveni directed that the money be released to relieve the financial distress of teachers in private institutions.

He argued then that unlike their counterparts in government-aided schools, salaries for privately contracted teachers were terminated almost immediately following the sudden closure of education facilities at the onset of the pandemic.

The beneficiary teachers, the President said then, numbered about 35,000.

The teachers have become restless, according to officials of their union, due the inordinate delays in accessing the money yet the current financial year lapses at the end of June, by which time all unspent government money will be returned to the Consolidated Fund.

Through their association, the Uganda Private Teachers Union, the teachers said they weren’t sure where the money was and wondered why they have been sidelined since Treasury released the money last year.

In addition, the teachers said they were, for unexplained reasons, scrapped from accessing Emyooga funds, which is a parallel presidential initiative on wealth.

Emyooga money is disbursed to savings groups and serves as a revolving fund unlike the Shs20b which the President promised as a grant.

Mr Juma Mwamula, the Union general secretary, yesterday sought Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga’s intervention to help the stranded teachers of private schools to access the money and be reinstated for Emyooga money, currently managed under the Microfinance Support Centre.

“Many teachers are undergoing dehumanising incidents, including house eviction, family [break ups] due to inability to provide basic needs, involvement in indecent survival engagement where they are washing clothes of parents whose children they teach. Teachers were arbitrary removed from the Emyooga list.

Even the promised Shs20 billion grant the President pledged has remained in government offices at the ministries of Education and Finance without reaching the distressed teachers,” Mr Mwamula said in a meeting at the Speaker’s office at Parliament.

In attendance was the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) chairman general, Mr Wilson Owere, and the Workers Member of Parliament, Ms Agnes Kunihira.

Kadaga petitioned

“The Union petitions [through] you that Parliament causes an inquest to confirm whether the said funds are still available for the purpose it was meant to serve...,” Mr Mwamula added.

In a separate interview, the ministry of Education director for Basic Education, Mr Ismail Mulindwa, said the money hasn’t been released yet because the private teachers lacked structures.

He explained that it is currently with Micro-Finance Support Centre and because it is money from the Consolidated Fund, they couldn’t just release it out without clear guidelines, which they are concluding.

As such they wrote to district education officers across the country to nominate representatives who would form an association. Each local government then picked two teachers who recently met in Kampala with Ministry of Education officials.

But Mr Mulindwa yesterday said the Solicitor General has since advised that the national interim committee be legalised before members start accessing the money.

He said: “The President was very categorical; ‘I am putting this money in your Sacco.’ We couldn’t move very quickly to just dispatch off money. To who and to which Sacco? We had to make sure we organise these teachers so that they form a Sacco through which the money would be channelled.

"The reason we did this is because we got hoax who were targeting to have this money, share and eat it. It would then backfire on us because this is public money from the Consolidated Fund.”

Initial arrangement

Initially, Mr Mulindwa explained, the presidential pledge to teachers in private schools had been put under the Emyooga, which the President later advised that it is run independently.

The teachers are now protesting that in addition to the Shs20billion, they are included on the Emyooga beneficiaries’ list.

The teachers claim that the ministry officials have never consulted them on issues affecting them, but have instead been using school proprietors to meet the President yet the interests of school owners are different from that of teachers they employ.

State minister for Higher Education Chrysostom Muyingo yesterday said the President had advised that the private teachers are removed from the Emyooga beneficiaries’ list.

Background of Museveni pledge

President Museveni last year gave private teachers Shs20 billion as part of the stimulus package to relieve them from the financial distress they were experiencing after schools were abruptly closed in March following Coronavirus outbreak.

Initially, education officials explained, the presidential pledge to teachers in private schools had been put under the Emyooga, which the President later advised that it is run independently.

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