Government schools in Masaka city are struggling with staff shortages, which is threatening consistency and the quality of learning.
Gorreti Ndagire, the head teacher of Nyendo Public School, says that the school is understaffed by six teachers, despite the recently registered increase in the learners’ enrollment as parents transfer children from private to government schools due to a lack of fees.
She indicates that three teachers at the school were formally retired, two absconded from duty and one died in a period of one year, but their positions have remained vacant despite the growing need for the services.
Ndagire says that they have repeatedly notified their supervisors about the existing staffing gaps, but the challenge is yet to be addressed.
Ndagire is also afraid that the situation may even get worse because some other teachers are already expressing interest in seeking early retirement owing to their declining morale in the profession.
Francis Nsubuga Ssematimba, the Chairperson of the Uganda National Teachers Union-UNATU Masaka branch and Headteacher at St Maria Goretti Mpugwe, says the problem of understaffing is widely spread in the area and is directly affecting learning in government schools. He argues that the Covid-19-induced lockdown that led to the closure of schools for about two years, frustrated several teachers who eventually left the profession for other income-generating activities.
According to Nsubuga, by March this year, shortly after the schools resumed from a long Covid-19 induced break, their office had registered at least 83 teachers who failed to report back to their respective duty stations after they were either recruited by labor export agencies or joined the private business sector.
“All these are staffing gaps that have serious negative impacts on the way our schools deliver the services. It high time the responsible authorities worked out plans of filling the vacuums to ensure consistency in service delivery,” he says.
Herman Nsamba, the Headteacher of St. Gregory Primary school Mukungwe indicates that in a period of one year, the school has lost three teachers who are yet to be replaced.
Nsamba says that the remaining few staff are being asked to take on extra workload hence stretching beyond their capacities, which inevitably compromises the quality of education.
Steven Kakeeto, the Masaka City Principal Education Officer says they are aware of the challenge of understaffing in schools, arguing that his office is still conducting a verification exercise on their human resource registers after which they will proceed to fill the gaps based on the available wage bill.
“Now that the City Service Commission has been put in place, we are asking the town clerk to consider teachers as a priority in the recruitment process,” he indicated.