Rt. Hon. Speaker, it’s my hope that this letter finds you in good health. I’m one of those who admire and cherish your tremendous work as Speaker of Parliament, your commitment to ensure equity and equality of all persons in this country.
My name is Patrick Ssekatawa, a Professional teacher who has been serving the nation for the past 18 years in the private sector.
The emergence of COVID-19 came as surprise to the world and caught everyone unprepared. As we all know, our government instituted an unprecedented lockdown to try and combat the virus. It was that right move by government as evidently the result has been telling.
Unfortunately, the lockdown has had a horrendous impact on some sectors, especially the one that I represent- Education! Since March 20th, school has been suspended, rendering tens of thousands of teachers and other people whose livelihood is school, jobless.
Madam Speaker, as pointed out earlier, I’ve been working in private schools since the start of my career 18 years ago, so I know very well how they operate. Many private schools stop paying their employees in November so that by the time school resumes in February, there are two unpaid months of December and January. Many private schools use the pay-as-you-teach system where the more days a teacher teaches, the more money they accrue. That means that in times of sickness, public holidays or any sort of incapacitation, such teachers aren’t paid at all, while other schools are only pay in the months they’re actively working, that is, February, Mach, April, June, July, part of August, part of September (as second term holidays are normally between August and September), October and November. In such schools no pay is accorded to employees during holidays! Having given you such a background, I’ll now delve into the gist of the matter.
Madam Speaker, it is clear then that by the time the President closed all schools on March 30th, many teachers had either been paid one month or two of the remaining bit of 2019, one or two months of term one of 2020 or nothing at all for the new term. Majority of these teachers stay in rented apartments whose dues they haven’t paid since time immemorial! These teachers are mature men and women with families to look after. They have to buy food, soap, charcoal/firewood, pay water bills, Yaka, everything! Yet they are not earning at all and haven’t done so for a long time! It’s impossible to blame their employers at time a like this as the lockdown has rendered them absolutely helpless.
As a result, some teachers have been thrown out of their apartments by their landlords, while others have been warned to pay or face ejection. Some received letters from their employers laying them off their work, suspending their contracts while others have practically been sacked!
As a result, private school teachers have been reduced to absolute beggars and a source of ridicule in society! The debilitating and horrific video that appeared on television of a teacher feeding on banana peels with her family left me wondering if we teachers matter at all in this country!! It’s terrible, to say the least, madam Speaker!
Even food relief that government gave out to some of its citizens deliberately eluded teachers! HE the President was very clear in one of his early COVID-19 speeches that teachers were not vulnerable so they were not eligible for the food government distributed to people in Kampala and some parts of Wakiso!
Madam Speaker, we are also citizens of Uganda. We pay tax just like others. Why is government treating us so inhumanly? This is not fair, Madam Speaker! Many of us have savings with NSSF and had grown hopeful that parliament would do something to amend the NSSF Act in order that we access a part payment of our savings. We even heard you order the concerned parliamentary committee to get the Act amended within 10 days, but it all vanished in thin air! What happened, Madam Speaker?
Madam Speaker, in my view, just like government takes full responsibility of all people arrested and jailed by providing food, shelter, clothing, medication, etc, government should in the same breath take up the responsibility of taking care of us now that our places of work were suspended by:
Paying our salaries
Paying our rent dues
Paying our medical bills
Paying our electricity bills
Paying our water bills now that we are totally incapacitated.
Madam Speaker, it is also our prayer that government unconditionally grants us access to our NSSF savings so that we can use it to our rescue now that government seems disinterested in looking into our plight. I don’t see the logic behind letting me starve to death and then make my money available to those who didn’t make it! What’s the logic?
Madam Speaker there’s a genuine fear that having seen how dejected teachers are at this point, the younger generation are going to be forced to move more and more away from the teaching profession seeing how much pain it has caused those in it during this pandemic! Consequently, the country will suffer from a crisis of teachers whose love for the profession is natural. And we all know the consequence of a nation without competent scholars.
Another horrible consequence of school suspension is directly on our children. We have already received very sickening reports of how children aged 13-15 have fallen victim to vulturous men in Luuka and Namutumba, impregnating them and leaving them with no chance of returning to school! There’s also the possibility of those poor children picking up HIV/AIDS from those irresponsible horny men. The problem is spreading like whirlwind across the country as it has been reported in Kalungu District and other areas. In some instances, as we have seen on TV, some parents have given their daughters to men for sex in exchange for food! Madam Speaker, something ought to be done as the solutions we are implementing could be worse the COVID-19 problem!
It is my prayer therefore Madam Speaker that you intervene in this matter so that we too can get the justice we deserve. I strongly believe that government should as well lift the ban of schools so that we can resume work as statistics have shown that COVID-19 is not that much of a threat to students of 19 years and below. As research has put the risk of fatality in children at a lowly 1%!
It is my belief therefore that if all the other SOPs like washing hands, wearing face masks, keeping a considerable distance between individuals are strictly practiced, the ban on school can be lifted without a problem. Without that, we are likely to die in pain!
In conclusion, I call you upon to come to the rescue of the private school teachers whose existence is under serious threat, not of COVID-19 itself, but of the effects of COVID.
Private school teacher
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