The government’s decision to recruit an additional 4,700 secondary school teachers for deployment in 100 new and old government-aided schools is no doubt a great move.
The move will certainly go some distance towards easing the shortage of teachers, which seems to have become one of the chronic problems bedevilling the education sector since 2007 when Universal Secondary Education (USE) was introduced.
However, it is important that the challenges constraining the education sector be addressed holistically lest it will breed perpetuity of the problems.
If government is to fix the shortage of teachers by recruiting more, it should at the same time consider addressing itself to the causes forcing the existing teachers out of the teaching service.
Many of those who have abandoned the profession have cited poor remuneration and welfare. One of the biggest welfare issues has been lack of housing.
Most schools do not have staff houses and in cases where teachers have to work far away from their homes, it becomes difficult for them to serve.
In situations where schools cannot provide houses or provide rent allowances, teachers are forced to dip into their pockets and pay for their own accommodation. Given the low salaries of the teaching service, it would be sheer fantasy to expect that teachers would afford or agree to rent.
Accommodation does not come cheap especially in urban areas. An average family house goes for between Shs350,000 and Shs500,000 yet this might be the equivalent of the teacher’s entire earnings for the month.
A diploma holder teaching Arts subjects earns Shs510,000 while their counterparts who teach science subjects earn Shs650,000 per month.
Degree holders who teach Arts subjects earn Shs720,000 while their counterparts who teach science subjects earn Shs760,000 a month.
It would be asking for too much from a person who earns such an amount to also pay for his/her own accommodation yet they also have to feed their families, meet the costs of medication, transport, clothing and children’s welfare.
These are the challenges that government must address squarely to cure the chronic staff shortages in the teaching service. Welfare must be addressed not only to retain the existing teaching staff, but also to attract more into the service.
Short of this, the government might remain perpetually trapped between endless teacher recruitment and exits from the teaching service for a long time.