Amidst prolonged closure of University of Malawi’s (Unima) Chancellor College (Chanco) over a labour dispute and a strike by primary school teachers, President Peter Mutharika on Friday engaged representatives of concerned Chanco students’ parents and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) in Lilongwe separately.
TUM president Willy Malimba described their meeting with the President in an interview yesterday as a success, disclosing Mutharika ordered that every teacher must be paid their leave grants for the year 2016/17 by tomorrow.
Malimba said his union has since communicated to all their members that the strike has been called off and that all concerned primary school teachers must report to class by tomorrow.
The strike by primary school teachers led to riots after pupils in some parts of the country took to the streets to force government to pay their teachers so that they return to class.
They blocked roads, stoned vehicles and, in a worst case at Lunzu in Blantyre, attacked and injured a police officer.
Malimba said at a time they were meeting the President on Friday, 14 districts had already received their leave grants.
The Tum president said to ensure President Mutharika’s order was fulfilled that by tomorrow every teacher must be paid their leave grants some government officials worked overnight on Friday.
He said as of yesterday, more bank transactions were made for the remaining districts, except Chitipa, Lilongwe, Likoma and Chiradzulu, which he said had balancing problems to do with their district education managers and district councils.
“But we are certain that by Monday [tomorrow], as the President has directed, they will have received their leave grants,” said Malimba.
On the impending nationwide civil service strike on Tuesday being led by Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) demanding a 45 percent salary increment, Malimba said TUM was yet to decide whether to join.
The civil ser vants are protesting a 10 percent increment Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe offered when he presented the 2017/18 National Budget in Parliament.
In a related development, Chanco Concerned Parents Association chairperson Paul Chikwekwe, in a separate interview, said their meeting with the President was cordial and that they were hopeful it would yield the desired results.
Chikwekwe said: “ We discussed a number of things over the closure of the college. We expressed our concerns and how disturbing this is to our children and us. The President expressed regret, more especially this being an institution he is heading as a Chancellor.
“We suggested ways how this can be resolved and we also learnt from the President that this was not the first meeting he was having over the Chanco closure; he disclosed he had had other meetings with Unima Council chairperson Professor [Jack] Wilima.”
But Chikwekwe said the way forward on the matter would depend on the outcome of other negotiations that took place on the same day between two ministries of Education and Justice and Constitutional Affairs on one side, and Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (Ccasu) on the other.
He said the outcome of the negotiations government had with Ccasu were key to resolving the dispute, adding it was their prayer that parties involved would see the need to address the matter soon.
Meanwhile, a State House statement on the meetings the President had on Friday stated that Mutharika assured the teachers that government had tirelessly been working on the problem and that as of Friday, funds for the teachers’ leave grants had been transferred from Treasury to respective district councils nationwide.
On the Chanco dispute, State House said the concerned parents communicated to the President that they were disappointed at the prolonged labour dispute between Unima Council and academic staff.