Cases of mental illness and abandonment by teachers have escalated staff shortages in government schools across Nakaseke district. According to the Nakaseke district education department, each government primary school has a staff ceiling of eight teachers including the headteacher.
However, the majority of schools in Nakaseke schools operate with 4-6 teachers including a headteacher leaving some learners unattended too. David Ssenyondwa, the Chairperson of Nakaseke District Headteachers Association, says that due to the shortage of teachers, learners miss lessons, which affects their performance at the end-of-year exams.
Ssenyondwa says that some schools ask parents to pay for extra teachers but meet strong resistance because of the pronouncements that education is free in UPE schools.
Emmanuel Kizza, the Uganda National Teachers’ Union Nakaseke branch Chairperson, says that although the government policy recommends that each teacher attends to 53 pupils per class, some end up attending to over 120 learners due to the shortage.
Kizza decried the overload of the few available teachers in the schools. Stephen Batanudde, the Nakaseke District Education Officer, says that the shortage has escalated due to cases of teachers battling various mental illnesses and others leaving service for better jobs. Batanudde says that currently 14 teachers in the district suffer from mental illness and are not teaching.
He says that the National Medical Board declined to recommend their retirement on medical grounds insisting that this may worsen their conditions. He adds that 30 other teachers left service and they are yet to replace them due to the bureaucratic procedures involved in their removal from the payroll. Batanudde also explains that apart from replacing teachers who leave service, the wage bill doesn’t allow them to employ new teachers to fill other existing gaps in schools.
Richard Mavuma, the Nakaseke District Secretary for Education, says that recently the district received 13 community schools but the government has been able to take only one leaving others without teachers and UPE grants.
Mavuma says that as a result, the district re-assigned teachers from other government schools to the affected community schools, which worsened the existing shortage. He has asked the Ministry of Education and Sports to speed up the process to code the schools and offer top-up allowances to motivate teachers in hard-to-reach areas to stay on jobs.
“If the Ministry of Education codes the affected community schools and they are offered new teachers, we shall re-assign those posted there and reduce on the existing shortage as we continue to appeal for increment in the wage bill,” Mavuma said
Recently, Joyce Kaducu Moriku, the State Minister of Primary Education told URN that the slow process of coding schools is always due to inadequate funding needed to facilitate them. There are 934 teachers deployed in 114 UPE schools and 12 community primary schools spread in Nakaseke district.