With the long-awaited government relief package to private school teachers becoming smoke and mirrors, a third party is coming on board to put some temporary relief cash in teachers’ pockets ahead of school reopening.
Private school teachers at all levels are part of the groups of people who were greatly affected by COVID-19 containment measures when the school closed leaving them without any source of livelihood.
Due to stress, several teachers gave in and committed suicide while some survived from tokens given to them by parents and the majority eventually ventured into other businesses to make ends meet.
The government earmarked 20 billion shillings which teachers could access as loans to help them invest in other subsectors to find alternative livelihoods.
However, two years later, the said money is yet to be released after being frustrated by bureaucratic processes and politics in the ministry of education.
Now, with a week towards the full resumption of schools in Uganda, GiveDirectly, an international non-governmental organization that focuses on poverty alleviation and humanitarian relief via livelihood cash transfers is set to give out 100,000 shillings to each eligible private school teacher in primary and secondary schools.
“The cash relief program will support 300,000 teachers across the country… Each teacher will receive UGX100,000 net. The program will cater for the taxes and withdrawal fees,” a circular from Aggrey Kibenge, the permanent secretary at the ministry of gender says.
Kibenge says that when the said NGO contacted their ministry asking for a group of vulnerable people impacted by COVID-19 containment measures, they saw that teachers were the ones in dire need given the fact that many of them have spent close to two years without formal jobs.
While the vast majority of sectors have fully or partially reopened in recent months and many people have returned to work, the education sector remains closed. Schools are planned to reopen in in staggered fashion by which time teachers in private primary and secondary schools will have missed income for close to two years.
In September 2020, the government had suspended GiveDirectly operations. At that time the USAID-funded organization was planning to give out cash transfers worth $15m (about Shs 57bn) to vulnerable Ugandans whose earnings had been affected by the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020.
At that time, the NGO Bureau claimed that an investigation had found that their cash handouts were likely to make Ugandans lazy, promote idleness, domestic violence, dependency syndrome, and tension within neighboring villages.
However, following a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni they were okayed to resume distributing cash relief to vulnerable Ugandans provided that the distribution of the money is aligned with government priorities.
With 30 billion shillings readily available to be transferred, Kibenge has directed Chief Administrative Officers and Town Clerks to mobilize headteachers of private primary and secondary schools to compile and upload data of eligible teachers through the ministry’s online system which will later be verified and thereby approved for payment by the local government education authorities.
According to the ministry of gender, only registered teachers who were serving in licensed or registered private schools before the lockdown will benefit from the said programme.
As one of the other means to prove that teachers were working in the said schools, the ministry also requires headteachers to upload the payroll data for one month (preferably January, February, or March 2020) as evidence of salary payment.
However, to many private schools, this might be a difficult condition to meet as many of them don’t have teacher contracts, no payrolls with teachers are paid by cash. But, the gender ministry insists that schools should provide a payroll that may include a signed payment roster, bank instruction/statement, or mobile money statement depending on how salaries are paid in each school.
Additionally, teachers who benefited from the government’s Covid-19 cash support program famously known as Nabbajja cash that was distributed to vulnerable people between June and September 2021 are not eligible for this programme.
Godlive Baguma, a private school teacher, says that although the money is welcomed, it is given to them at the wrong time. He cites that when they were at their darkest hour, nobody came to their rescue leaving them to suffer without help.
“For a fact money is money and we will register to get that 100,000 shillings, but we wish this form of relief or more came at the time when we were ‘grassing’ and looking for survival,” Baguma noted, pointing at what the said amount of money is capable of doing.
“Many teachers struggled to start up income-generating activities at that time, but well, the 100,000 shillings could help them to venture into simple business like vending, horticulture business, simple roadside stalls, name it,” he adds.
Last year, the government also transferred 100,000 shillings each to 497,848 targeted groups including saloon workers, boda boda and taxi drivers, market vendors and private school teachers among others. But, several media reports and parliamentary investigation indicate that the process was marred by corruption with some officials instead registering themselves, their relatives, or friends for the relief.