While Malawi Government believes primary school pupils who demonstrated in Blantyre and Lilongwe in support of their teachers’ salary demands were used by people with a sinister agenda, a Nation on Sunday survey has found massive support for the pupils’ actions.
The survey, conducted in 18 districts and through the short message service (SMS), involved 1 077 respondents. Out of the 1 077 people who participated in the poll, 849 said the pupils were right to invade the streets to help push their teachers’ agenda.
This means 79 percent of the respondents supported the pupils’ actions.
The predominant feeling among the respondents was that since pupils were the victims of the teachers’ stay-away, they had every right to intervene.
After the demonstrations two weeks ago, Minister of Sports Enock Chihana, Minister of Education Eunice Kazembe and Anita Kalinde, who is Minister of Gender, held a media conference in Lilongwe where they said the pupils were agents of people who wanted to cause trouble for government.
“Instead of being at school, they were on the road chanting disrespectful slogans against the authority which we, as Ministry of Education, feel is not a good grounding and I know for sure there are organisers behind this because a child cannot wake up and think of going on the streets on their own,” said Kazembe.
Kazembe could not say who was behind the demonstrations.
But social commentator Jimmy Kainja leaned in the direction of the pupils, saying there was nothing happening at school and that was reason enough for them to demonstrate.
Kainja said pupils in the age ranges of 12 and 13 are capable of organising themselves and leading younger pupils.
“In Malawi, there is this culture of blaming someone for everything. There is also that culture of thinking that elders have all the answers…that is not true anymore. Those days are over, children nowadays are different. Listen to the children, consider them in policy decisions,” he said.
Kainja said instead of trying to point fingers at some people, government should consider why the pupils demonstrated.
During the press conference, Kalinde said the law protects children and using them to advance some people’s agenda is a breach of the law.
On his part, Chihana said government would institute investigations to deal with the people who influenced the pupils.