More than 500 teachers working in private schools in Tooro sub-region have appealed for food relief from government three months after President Yoweri Museveni ordered the closure of schools in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
According to James Atuhaire, the Chairperson of the Private Teachers Association in Tooro sub-region, most private school teachers were last paid in February, unlike their colleagues on government payroll who have continued earning a salary while schools are closed.
“Unlike teachers who are on government payroll, we rely on PTA money and once we have not worked, we can’t be paid and yet we depend on that little salary,” Atuhaire said.
He lamented that the various district COVID-19 taskforces that have been distributing food have never considered the plight of teachers from private schools.
“Teachers are not included among essential workers and yet we have seen essential workers like nurses and doctors receive relief items like food and yet they are working, while we are here suffering with our children,” he said.
Atuhaire says the teachers’ plight was aggravated by the closure of non-food markets, thereby cutting off alternative sources of income for many of them.
“Some teachers had side businesses like selling second-hand clothes in markets but these were also closed abruptly.”
Even more worrying, Atuhaire noted, is the open-ended nature of the teachers’ predicament as the reopening date for schools remains unclear.
“We are not aware when this situation will normalize because schools are predicted to reopen next year, putting private school teachers at more risk if the government doesn’t find a solution for them,” he said.
Atuhaire called upon government and civil society organizations to come to their rescue.
In his most recent, June 22 address on the COVID-19 crisis, President Museveni indicated that schools will not be re-opening anytime soon, stating, “As far as the Educational Institutions are concerned, nobody who cares about Uganda or our children is talking about re-opening them as of now. It is just too risky.”
Nevertheless, the president mentioned “private universities, private secondary schools, private primary schools” among the businesses that have been affected by the lockdown and directed that they be registered so as to benefit from cheap capital “when their activities resume or even help them to do other activities”.
It is not clear, however, whether such relief would directly benefit the employees (such as teachers), or only the owners of these institutions.