DANIEL MUSOKE: Increasing science teachers’ pay while stepping on their arts colleagues will have dare consequences on learners

Students in a chemistry practical exam (PHOTO/Courtesy)

KAMPALA— Response to Jonathan Kivumbi’s article on proposed salary disparities among teachers in government schools. 

Having a disparity in wages between sciences and arts teachers in my opinion isn’t a solution and using this approach as a disguise of improvement in the performance of students in science subjects is what I would call offering lip service to the grand problem.

As someone who studied from a “third world” school by Ugandan standards in my O’ level, I consider myself among the few miracles to have ever pursued “sciences” in my further academic life. This to me was largely based on the limited facilities (laboratory equipment) which no amount of well-paid teachers would do anything about other than teaching the practical subjects in theory format.

A teacher of physics or chemistry or any other natural science subject you may think of has no difference from the one teaching History, Geography or Christian Religious education if all of them are just giving notes without illustrations in laboratories or otherwise. In Uganda too many students, from kindergarten, primary and secondary classrooms to university lecture halls, are learning science by reading about it in a textbook, by listening passively, or memorizing disconnected facts. Most often than not they are left asking, ‘what does science have to do with my life?

It goes without mention that high-quality science education gives students the opportunity to carry out investigations, analyze data, draw conclusions, and communicate results and these skills are increasingly valuable in today’s workforce and society overall.

However, to achieve this, we need to provide time, materials, and resources to schools to support science education, and having a well-prepared, diverse teaching workforce before we even begin to talk about issues of remuneration. So in my opinion the government should first and foremost focus on the push factors such as equipping laboratories, providing residential facilities in the upcountry schools to make the ground leveled among its schools across the country. The second thing should be to offer hardship allowance to all teachers (irrespective of the subjects they teach) in schools located in areas which are known as “hard to reach”.

This will motivate all teachers in government schools to teach with passion and hence translate itself into students’ performance. Otherwise in my opinion it makes no sense to “motivate” a science teacher while at the same time “demotivating” the arts teachers within the same schools because at the end of the day you need someone who can express themselves and also explain their science solutions better or even make them marketable and these are skills which are got largely from arts-based subjects.

Secondly, why would teachers who are having a similar workload (teaching hours) be paid differently based on purely the difference in subject classification? At the end of the day, these two subjects’ categories complement each other.

If I may ask, what are sciences anyway according to government because in my opinion even music, sports, art, which to my understanding may be classified as arts may actually be more “sciences” than the natural sciences, we may think of.

The presumption is that that science is knowledge and knowledge is power but this must not exclude the skills that go behind being a scientist, as you need these to acquire and support the knowledge.

In a nutshell, I do believe that there’s a need to focus resources on increasing the quality and accessibility of science education.

Nonetheless, this shouldn’t be done to the disadvantage of arts subject teachers through a policy sanctioned disparity in pay.

The writer, Daniel Musoke, is a secondary school teacher of sciences

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