Ugandan teachers are faced with a code of professional conduct which includes the provision that teachers have to dress smartly or face the sack. In a statement, the irony of which was presumably lost on him, the Education Service Commission chairman said, "You don't need many pairs of shoes or trousers to be smart. It means that if you have one shirt you should wash it in the evening and put it on in the morning when it's clean."

The fact that the chair of the body which recruits teachers accepts that it's quite likely that teachers would only have one shirt to their backs, speaks volumes about the low value put on the profession by politicians in Uganda. As one headteacher said in response to the code, "You don't need a lot of money to be smart but I think sometimes teachers dress badly because of frustration for example I didn't (receive) salary for the whole of last year and I have not received salaries of two months this year." 

In September of this year Ugandan teachers were on strike for a living wage. A worrying aspect of the code is that it outlaws teachers' right to encourage other teachers to go on strike. The same chairperson said: "If one (teacher) is striking they are expected to strike peacefully and withdraw their labour if they want but they should not instigate others to strike and paralyze the institution." No strike can be successful without the solidarity which is built up by mutual encouragement. The government of Uganda has a vicious record of attacking labour rights and suppressing strikes by force. In the September strike, the trade union movement had to set up legal centres in many parts of the country to help teachers who were intimidated by the authorities.

This contemptuous attitude to public school teachers and their welfare is of a piece with the fincance minister's reaction to last September's strike: " If they can’t take what we are giving them, I think it’s better we sweep them aside and recruit young ones who are willing to take what we can offer."

Uganda's government has justified their failure to pay teachers properly by the need to invest in mineral wealth - already multi-national corporations like Shell and Exxon Mobil are rubbing their hands at the prospect of yet more rich pickings from Africa - and some corrupt politicans also get rich on the process. As one teacher said at the time of the strike: “Is it (the failure to fund public education properly) because children of our legislators and the executive do not go to public schools? Is it an aspect of promoting private education where the majority of the proprietors are the same people in whom powers of determining the destiny of our future lies?"

This new 'professional' code is just the latest attack on the dignity of the teaching profession in Uganda.