The Education Service Commission has embarked on the long-awaited national staff validation exercise to weed out ghosts and identify staffing gaps in the education sector.
Dr Asuman Lukwago, the Secretary of the Education Service Commission says that the exercise will be carried out in all post-primary institutions including secondary schools, technical and vocational institutions, farm schools, health training schools and teacher colleges.
Available information indicates that the exercise follows a directive issued by Education Minister Janet Kataaha Museveni in 2019.
However, it was delayed by the closure of educational institutions which started in March 2020 as the country battled the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Dr Lukwago says the exercise will start in the Buganda region today until March 4, 2022, before being rolled out to other regions.
Lukwago says that in each school all teachers are expected to be present without fail since the activity is also a headcount unless when one is on sick, maternity leave or study leave abroad which also must be backed up with required documentation.
According to the staff record form designed for the activity, teachers and other staff will be required to present their appointment letters, confirmation letters, original national identification cards, their original qualification documents and their last payslip among other required documents.
The secretary says that a teacher who will not be found at school will be considered to have absconded from duty.
He added that following the standing orders, the post will be declared vacant and the ministry will be advised to recruit new staff to fill it in the shortest time possible.
Recently, the Uganda National Teacher Union (UNATU) requested the government to make an update of its payroll to ascertain the teachers who will be available when the schools reopen.
Prior to school re-opening Filbert Baguma, UNATU General Secretary argued that it was wrong for the government to work on assumptions that all teachers are still in the profession.
Baguma said that many teachers have died in recent years, others have reached retirement age and others have walked out of the profession but much of this data has not been covered.
A report by the National Planning Authority (NPA) warned that the return of teachers, even those on payroll, might not be automatic given the fact that many of them have been exposed to several alternative options of making money while those who will return are likely to be more absent as they try to balance school and private businesses.
Dr Lukwago says that the commission is aware that some teachers have left the profession but continue drawing salaries without working.
Others have gone ahead to contract non-appointed personnel to teach in their places, against the guidelines.
Records tabled before Parliament’s Education Committee show that hundreds of persons on the government payroll are paid as teachers and educators, but they are actually teachers with fake appointment letters.
The specific source of the forgeries is unknown, but the Education Service Commission believes it is the work of a gang of gangsters, some of whom are inside the system.
In other cases, Lukwago says the commission has already received information that when some teachers die, their death is not reported and headteachers connive with some people managing the payroll to share this salary.
According to available data, the government spends 7.3 billion Shillings per year on salaries to unscrupulous teachers on the payroll.
This amount of money can be used to build three fully-equipped seed schools (each at 2.3 billion Shillings).
Prof Samuel Lugoba, the commission’s chairperson, stated in a recent interview that they don’t know the depth of the problem yet, but that validation will assist.
Hundreds of cases were detected when the Education Service Commission last performed a validation exercise in various districts of the Lango and Acholi sub-regions in 2019.
Over 400 teachers were found to be collecting government funds illegally, according to Lukwago.
Apart from ghost teachers, sources at Education Service Commission claim that there are also suspected phantom schools.
“During one of the commission’s last tasks, it was discovered that there existed a school with staff; from the headteacher to the gatekeeper.” However, the school was not physically present. “We believe there are more of these institutions around the country,” the source continued.
According to the source, there are already 28 schools that have not supplied their staff details as required prior to the validation procedure.
“It’s possible that some of these schools are new seed schools with no employees, but it’s also possible that some of them aren’t there.” “The jury will find out shortly,” the person continued.
After uncovering 20 phantom headteachers at Abim in 2012, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Mismanagement of the Universal Primary and Secondary Education Programme, chaired by High Court Justice Ezekiel Muhanguzi, was likewise enraged.
Despite the fact that the district had 34 physical schools, the paper said that there were 54 headteachers, leaving the panel to question which schools the 20 head teachers administered.
After three months, the commission will be expected to publish their findings in a report that will be handed over to the education minister.