By Frederick Dongo-Shema
(M&E Specialist and the President, Association of Biology Educators (ABE))
Asuman Bisiika’s article in the Daily Monitor of Saturday, November 25, 2023 suggests that the salary enhancement policy may have had a reverse effect on service delivery. He alleges increased early retirement and reduced passion for work, without referring to the past period. However, a philosophical examination reveals compelling arguments in favour of this policy.
The opinion seems to overlook the fact that the salary enhancement for scientists was implemented in July 2022. Importantly to note, the term “impact” typically refers to longer-term effects on society, and therefore, it is premature to make definitive conclusions about the impact of the salary enhancement policy in such a short period of time.
First, let us consider the intrinsic value of scientific inquiry. Scientists are not mere technicians but rather seekers of knowledge, driven by an innate curiosity about the workings of the universe. Their work is not solely motivated by financial rewards but by a deep-seated desire to understand and contribute to the world’s progress.
Enhancing scientists’ salaries recognises this intrinsic value and provides them with the means to pursue their passion without undue financial constraints. It acknowledges that their work is not just a job but a calling, deserving of adequate compensation.
Furthermore, investing in scientists is an investment in the future. Scientific research is the foundation upon which technological advancements, medical breakthroughs, and environmental solutions are built. By nurturing the scientific community, we are investing in the long-term prosperity and well-being of society.
Moreover, a well-compensated scientific workforce is more likely to attract and retain top talent. This, in turn, leads to a more diverse and innovative research environment, fostering groundbreaking discoveries and advancements.
Bisiika’s concern about increased early retirement is valid. However, it is important to consider that experienced scientists can still make significant contributions after retiring from government service. Their expertise can be utilised as consultants, mentors, or researchers in private institutions or academia.
For instance, most scientists retiring from secondary schools are joining the contractual workforce in public institutions, upon attaining higher qualifications.
Regarding the alleged decline in passion and enthusiasm, it is crucial to recognize that motivation is complex and multifaceted. While financial rewards are undoubtedly important, they are not the sole determinant of job satisfaction. Intellectual stimulation, a sense of purpose, and the opportunity to make a positive impact are equally important factors.
Enhancing scientists’ salaries contributed to a more fulfilling work environment by alleviating financial stress and allowing them to focus on their research with greater peace of mind. It also signaled the government’s commitment to valuing and supporting scientific endeavors, fostering a sense of pride and ownership among scientists.
Bisiika’s critique of top-down policymaking is also noteworthy. However, it is important to balance the need for expert input with the need for decisive action. In some cases, bold and timely decisions are necessary to address pressing challenges.
Moreover, top-down policies can be effectively implemented if they are accompanied by sincere communication, which President Museveni has fervently exhibited.
Frederick Dongo-Shema is an M&E Specialist and the President, Association of Biology Educators (ABE) firstname.lastname@example.org. +256 782 642 338