The proposal by government to increase salaries of professors to Shs15m pro-rata as reported in the media is a welcome milestone in the higher education sector. In fact, studies have shown that the salaries of teachers in a given country have a direct correlation to the quality of education provided.
So this increment is not only a boost to the professors but also to the quality of graduates we will have as a country.
The positive move of increasing salary increment for professors however needs to be harnessed right to generate the right impact in ensuring government priorities.
It would be a grave mistake if any proposal to boost higher education lecturers’ salaries only considered universities and excluded other tertiary institutions.
My take is that all staff in tertiary institutions with similar qualifications deserve equal pay.
Some public universities in a bid to recruit senior staff have greatly lowered the requirements for professor, associate professor and senior lecturer positions. This has led to situations where some professor in public university X can only qualify to be appointed at the very maximum as a senior lecturer in public university Y.
Some lecturers in universities actually have similar qualifications with principals, tutors, teachers in tertiary institutions.
An increment in only universities in this case could lead to an exodus of staff from some tertiary institutions to universities. It could also lead to resignations from some universities to those, which have highly compromised and lowered their requirements for the senior academic ranks.
Here the short cut would be for individuals to resign from one public university and join another in search of a higher academic rank that is linked to better pay.
For government to successfully implement a good strategy in dealing with wages, there is need for a salary review commission that would have several technical committees to set up the job profiles.
The committee on higher education for example would ensure that the minimum requirements for one to be appointed a professor in all public universities are the same.
While the National Council for Higher Education attempted to set these minimum standards for the different academic ranks in all universities in Uganda through gazetting a statutory instrument, this has never been fully enforced.
So without harmonisation of the requirements for the different academic positions in the public institutions, the pay for professors or any other academic rank cannot be made uniform across public universities.
While I have made a case for all higher education teaching staff, we cannot neglect primary and secondary teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers etc.
Hence the determination of salaries of all public servants in Uganda should in the medium and long-term be left to a professional body, the Salary Review Commission like is the case in developed countries.
Having talked a lot about salaries, I would like to add that they should not dominate the budget of a tertiary institution. For instance, there is need to allocate substantial amounts of funds for teaching and research materials, laboratory equipment and workshops among others.
In all world-class universities salaries take less than 30 per cent of the total University budget. In Uganda, it’s the opposite and no wonder most graduates are unskilled. This needs to change if you Uganda is to realise Vision 2040.
As of today more than 50 per cent of higher education students are in private higher education institutions.
So as the government moves to prioritise higher education, private higher education institutions are also major players in the sector and must be supported especially with infrastructure needed to provide quality education in science and technology relevant to Uganda’s development needs.
This is necessary in order to avoid the past mistakes where private primary and secondary schools were not supported by government to teach sciences with the exception of some private schools that are part of the universal primary and secondary education programme.
As a result several private primary and secondary schools taught arts and no wonder more than 70 per cent of students who qualify to join higher education institutions have an arts and humanities orientation.
This in the end has denied the higher education sector of the much needed science students.
This has further indirectly excluded several rural districts from sending students to universities and other tertiary institutions for science and technology programmes. Yet a country like Uganda needs inclusive development, which can only happen if the whole population regardless of family background or district location is availed the same quality of education.
As Kamaraj said, “Educate a man, he will develop himself.” Without an emphasis on quality education across all institutions, our country will continue to struggle with development in certain areas.
Data published in as early as the 1980s confirms the close correlation between education on the one hand and income, health, fertility and nutrition on the other.
A study by World Bank on developing countries revealed that farmers who received four years of general primary education obtained an average of 13 per cent higher crop yields than uneducated cultivators.
Other studies show that educated mothers have lower fertility and child mortality rates, and that the health and nutrition of their children are significantly higher than those of uneducated women of the same income group.
Our policy makers have a lot to borrow from these trends as they come up with new ways of prioritizing education in Uganda
Professor Baryamureeba is the Vice Chancellor of Uganda Technology and Management University
SOURCE: Daily Monitor