Salary backlog leads to job freeze

22nd May 1998 at 01:00
Uganda. The government has stopped recruiting primary teachers because it owes pound;22 million in unpaid wages.

The problem started last year with an official campaign to tackle inequality in education. The aim was to provide free primary education to four children from every family.

The government increased the number of pupils from 2.9m to 5.3m and teachers from 50,000 to 92,000.

Teachers' salaries were doubled to an average of pound;45 a month and the salaries bill rose pound;75m. The ministry of education also spent an extra pound;18m on tuition fees.

Then this year the education budget was cut by 30 per cent in a package of austerity measures.

Fagil Mandy, deputy commissioner for education in charge of primary education, said: "Local authorities have been directed to stop recruitment of teachers since there is no money."

The ministry of education is also slowing down primary teacher training. So far only about 48,000 teachers are trained and the government has temporarily shelved plans to increase the number of training colleges from 30 to 64 to provide for the 54,000 who are untrained. Each year the existing colleges graduate an average of 8,000 primary teachers.

Other problems are also affecting the implementation of universal primary education. So far only 42 per cent of the country's classrooms are in proper buildings.

Officials say unless money is soon made available to pay teachers, children will start dropping out, especially in areas that registered high enrolment last year, as teachers leave to find other jobs.

To overcome the problem the government is negotiating with the World Bank for a loan of pound;50m for education. However, sources in Kampala say there is no guarantee of getting the loan.

Education minister Amanya Mushega says despite the financial constraints, the government will not scrap the universal primary education programme. "We intend to pay the pound;22m we owe teachers when money becomes available," says AmanyaMushega.

To enable teachers to cope with large classes, the ministry is encouraging group teaching. The practice enables one teacher to supervise several large groups of one grade instead of putting them into different smaller classes. The number in each class rose from an average of 40 pupils to 100 in some schools.

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