ARUA. The outbreak and spread of Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has forced teachers teaching in various private schools in Arua City to form a union.

The teachers mainly from Nursery, Primary and Secondary schools who have gone for more than five months without pay launched their umbrella body dubbed ‘Uganda Private Teachers’ Union (UPTU) Arua City branch’ on Wednesday.

The Arua branch is affiliated to UPTU national body which was formed in 2010 with its main headquarters in Kampala.

While forming the union on August 20, the private teachers in Arua elected Ms Isabellah Tollea as their chairperson and Mr Geoffrey Etome as her deputy. Mr James Anguyo was elected as the Secretary General, Mr Robert Otrubo as the in charge of Welfare and discipline, Isah Idris, the in charge of education and trainings, Mr Aron Kafu for Youths, Amina Kifaya, the in charge of Women, Mr Pontius Agandi was elected to represent people with disabilities and Ms Roseline Achirochan as the Treasurer.

But during the launch of the UPTU Arua City branch at Springs Nursery and Primary school in Arua town, most teachers attributed the formation of the union to the outbreak of Covid-19.

“UPTU is an old union that started in 2010 in Kampala but because of the gap in information, most of us as private teachers were unable to hear about this. I should say Covid-19 is a very good disease in disguise. The fact is that if it didn’t happen, I’m very sure such information would never come to us so, Covid-19 is very important in disguise,” said Mr James Anguyo, the UPTU Arua City branch General Secretary.

“We are in the class of vulnerable people particularly the private teachers in this time of Covid-19. Some of us got their last salaries in March and this is now September, we are not even aware whether we shall go back to school or not,” Anguyo added.

He, however, commended his colleagues for being very focused and hopeful during this trying period of Covid-19.

“Unless we become organized, nobody will pay attention to us. Individually we can express our sad condition but nobody will pay attention to us, so it is better for us to form a union so that we have bargaining power,” Anguyo emphasized.

He said the union will strive to ensure that teachers get better pay and good working environment.

In her speech, Ms Isabellah Tollea, the union chairperson equally noted that coronavirus came as a very good lesson for them to reorganize themselves.

“It is now our time which God has given through Coronavirus and we are the union pioneer members in the West Nile region. So, let us embrace this union to ensure that every private teacher in Arua City benefits from it,” Tollea advised.

Mr Raymond Ombere, the Arua City Principal Education Officer said serving people is a sacrifice and as a result, teachers should persevere the situation.

“Our calling as teachers is not about money, it’s about transforming human beings. So, you have joined a union and I want to wish you well, let us take it seriously. Let this union not be for doing nothing but should be for doing something. Look for ways of sustaining yourselves beyond getting small salaries from these institutions,” Ombere said.

He advised that in addition to teaching, teachers should start thinking outside the box by engaging in side-income generating activities.

While presiding over the occasion, Ms Nezma Ocokoru, the Arua Hill Division Chairperson also appealed to the teachers not to only rely on one source of income.

“You can do backyard farming to feed your families as private teachers. Don’t think that because chalks and blackboards are all locked in schools you can’t do anything else to sustain yourself. So, let us open up,” Ocokoru said.