Teachers in Uganda are starting an indefinite strike over the government's continued failure to honour its promises to pay them a decent salary. Primary teachers earn little more than $100 a month in the country and have been waging a long campaign for an end to poverty pay. The government has used the need to invest in mineral exploration as a reason not to pay them in the past and is now citing the need to spend money on infrastructure as a reason not to keep to its pledges to teachers.

In 2013 we reported that teachers were being told that if they do not dress smartly they face the sack. In a statement, the irony of which was presumably lost on him, the Education Service Commission chairman said at the time"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 accepted that it was 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." 

Nothing has changed since that time, despite strikes and threats of strikes over the last period. So Ugandan teachers have lost patience and are taking action, which is particularly courageous, given the 29 year presidency of Yoweri Museveni, who has a history of repression of workers rights. Museveni has consistently followed World Bank prescriptions for economic 'reform'.  International oil corporations are already sniffing round the country as oil is due to come on stream in 2018. And as far as education policy is concerned, Museveni has pleased the World Bank by introducing Public Private Partnerships in secondary education, allowing private individuals and companies free rein to make profits from secondary education with almost no government oversight. As might be expected this is having a deleterious effect on education as this report by Ugandan researchers and others points out.